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Claudia Black interview
Date of publishing: 6th September 2006

Claudia Black interview - Vala - Stargate SG-1 - Gilles Nuytens Born in Australia, Claudia Black has spent her youth in Sydney and became famous by playing in number of TV productions in Australia and New Zealand, such "City Life" or several guest roles in "Hercules - The legendary journeys" and "Xena".
But she got an international renown by acting Aeryn Sun in the sci-fi show "Farscape" with Ben Browder and now with the role of Vala in Stargate SG-1.
The Scifi World had the opportunity to meet her in Vancouver during the shooting of the episode "Bad Guys". This half hour interview is available for download. The questions are read by Claudia herself for a better understanding.

Download the audio interview (Zipped MP3 file)
Disclaimer: Please, do not direct link to this file, link to the page ONLY.

Gilles Nuytens: How do you feel about playing a main character in two hit sci-fi shows?
Claudia Black: I’ve been really lucky to play two very interesting women back to back. So I just finished doing the mini series of Farscape and Aeryn was an incredible character to play. Very serious, but very strong, and like a little child who needed help becoming a women and that is the similarity with Vala playing her on Stargate, she’s also child like and very playfull, but they have both had very difficult lives Vala lets me bring out a lot more comedy in my performance than I had the opportunity to do with Aeryn. But as an actress, its been very lucky not only, you know financially as an actor to be but working back to back but also creatively to play such different roles.

Claudia Black interview - Vala - Stargate SG-1Gilles Nuytens: How different was it to play opposite Ben Browder in Farscape and in Stargate?
Claudia Black: The experience of working with Ben Browder on Farscape is completely different to the experience I have here on Stargate because they keep us separated (laugh). But they did at the beginning I think maybe they were worry that some of the fans of the show thought we would take over and change the style of the program, maybe? And also Ben and I were there when the show started from the very beginning so we had a bigger input in the shape and the tone of the program and we all grew together like a family on Farscape and Ben and I arrived late to this family but they have been incredible welcoming and its ... I am always very luck when Ben in on the set because I have someone to count on to give me an honest opinion about my work and since I consider him to be part of my family its always nice to have a nice brother around.

Gilles Nuytens: "200" is probably one of the funniest episodes, have you seen it?
Claudia Black: I think the 200th episode is very funny. Because I haven’t watched all of the episodes that have come some of the jokes I didn’t understand they needed to be explained to me but I was even surprised that I was included in it as much as I was because I knew they really wanted to make this episode especially for all the fans and I think, I hope they have enjoyed it, I haven’t heard what the response has been to it airing in America as it did on Friday night for the first time, but we certainly had some funny moments filming it and I was just impressed by the amount of enthusiasm and hard work from everybody in the crew that went into it. So there was always a great atmosphere when we were shooting it.

Gilles Nuytens: What did you enjoy the most about performing on that episode?
Claudia Black: I kind of answered that but ... It was the first time I worked with Martin Wood so that was an enjoyable experience. He is very organized and he’s very respectful of actors the way he communicated with us I was grateful for the way he always included us in the process and if we had ideas he was very open about them.

Claudia Black interview - Vala - Stargate SG-1Gilles Nuytens: What was the most challenging scene you had to do during your time on Stargate?
Claudia Black: When we did the episode where Vala gets burnt by the prior, it was incredibly hot and I was sitting in the center of that circle and the rings got closer and closer and we knew they weren’t going to come into the two closet rings and I was actually pregnant for some of that sequence because we shot some of it before the break and I found out I was pregnant then after the break I came back and I was a little more nervous about being there and it was very smoky and they were using different fire that day and I didn’t know what to say I went up to Michael Shanks and I said "I think I have to tell you something and I think I might have to tell the director things have changed a little bit it was a bit more intense" and Dan Shea our stunt supervisor caught on fire trying to get me out of there and I think I said something that wasn’t very polite. I was a little shocked that he was on fire, I just remembered the heat, I think that was sort of ... quite a challenging sequence but fun. I like doing that sort of stuff it’s a nice adrenalin rush.

The 200th episode was very grulling for me. I had a 2 month old baby who was very fussy baby, didn’t sleep much and being up all night with my baby and in every scene every set up every day at work was probably the greatest challenge I’ve had in terms of trying to keep energy up when I had none in reserve. And one day on set I actually couldn't remember my line and no matter how hard I tried I could not get it out of my mouth. I was doing a sequence with Willie Garson and he was very supportive and very sweet and I tried very hard and I just could not recall the line and everyone was standing on the set very ... I think they felt very sorry for me because its very arkward for an actor when they are going through that is its very painful to watch and very painful and embarrassing for me and I went to Robert Cooper and I said I had a terrible day on set and I’m sorry I just couldn’t remember my line and he was very sweet and ... they didn’t fire me but that was very challenging that day. Probably the most embarrassing day!

Gilles Nuytens: Do you carry over any character traits from Farscape?
Claudia Black: I think, yes as I said Aeryn and Vala both have the similarity in them that they are both child like and have a lot of growing up to do when we first meet them. How they cope with their past and how they interact with new people is very different.

Claudia Black interview - Vala - Stargate SG-1Gilles Nuytens: Your character has become an instant hit with fans of the show, ...
Claudia Black: Really? That's nice!

Gilles Nuytens: What aspects of the character do you think appeals to the audience?
Claudia Black: I think that Vala coping mechanism of keeping things light and always cracking jokes and teasing people and always seeing the funny side of things and always seeing opportunities and ... I think that she is amusing to watch, I hope she is, she’s annoying, yes I think she is very annoying and I think it’s funny and interesting what she brings out in Daniel he is obviously very popular character on the show and I think it’s nice to see a new side of Daniel. But I also think that she can be quite charming when she wants to be and quite clever and because she’s a survivor and she as also had a very tough life I think its always interesting to see what she’s going to do next in order to scrape through the predicament.

Gilles Nuytens: The chemistry between Vala and Daniel, was it something planned since the beginning?
Claudia Black: Nothing was planned. The episode “Prometheus Unbound” was a playful bottle episode as I say was supposed to be inexpensive easy to shoot, character oriented so I think from the beginning it was expected to be a little bit of chemistry between Daniel and the character of Vala. They had another actress in mind, she was unavailable and they approached me and I saw the opportunity for comedy and that’s what really attracted me to it. So I think it was a combination of what was on page because Damian Kindler had written a very funny episode and interesting character and the outcoming of me and Michael and Andy Mikita working together wanting to really bring out as much humor as we could. When I first met Michael, I went up to him, I actually thought that he has seen me and had chosen to ignore me so he could be a big star and be you know, a loof. I saw him walking down the hall and I thought "oh, no this gonna be a really tough experience, he is kind of ignoring me". When he realized I was standing on set waiting to meet him he came up to me and he was very sweet and he shook my hand and I said to him, we had to go a do a stunt rehearsal for the very funny fight scene we had, and I said to him because I can appreciate what it's like as a regular actor on a show, each new guest actor that comes into play with you presents an opportunity for you to show a new side of your character, so I said to him "what can I do to help you, is there anything you want to expose of your character in this episode, is there anything new you want to show about Daniel, is there something I can do to help to facilitate that". There was a moment of silence when Michael looked at me and said uh oh, gosh I don’t know thank you I’ll think about it. He said he wanted to make the fight as funny as he could and one of the producers on the set said no lets make sure he looks Michael looks macho its very important Daniel looks macho and Michael said no that’s not what Daniel is, he’s not a soldier he’s not military it should be funny, lets make it funny. So that was the beginning of the real chemistry between Daniel and Vala. That decision from everybody to protect the humor.

Claudia Black interview - Vala - Stargate SG-1Gilles Nuytens: Prometheus Unbound was one of the funniest episode, to my opinion!
Claudia Black: Oh cool, cool, thank you!
You can get a certain magic on a set when its on second unit or a small unit. I personally love doing the big explosion and the big stunts, I think it’s fun to be energetic and bring out the physical side of a character I’m playing but there’s also a huge opportunity when the episode requires doing some character work and some playful acting without the distraction or a loss of time due to you know, external forces like setting up stunts or having a large number of cast that all need to be filled, it was an interesting opportunity I think which is partly why the episode worked. I also like to say that every time we see the Prometheus on television my husband and I will watch it and every time we are impressed by Michael and how good he is in the episode. I can take or leave my own performance but I think he’s a terrific actor and excellent comedic performer. His timing when you watch that episode it is absolutely emaculent. He’s very, very clever.

Gilles Nuytens: Would you be interested in exploring Vala's past, especially in playing "Qetesh" on a flash back episode?
Claudia Black: Definitely, I think that would be an excellent episode. An I think we kinda saw a little bit of that, I never remember the name of the episode, but when she goes to the planet where she was Qetesh ...

Gilles Nuytens: The Ties That Bind ... No The Powers That Be!
Claudia Black: The Powers That be?

Gilles Nuytens: Yes
Claudia Black: I think it is!

Gilles Nuytens: With the prior, played by Greg Anderson!
Claudia Black: Yes, we get an inkling of what it was like when she was the host to the Goau’ld Qetesh and there were some amusing scenes but I definitely think that would be a very interesting episode.

Claudia Black interview - Vala - Stargate SG-1Gilles Nuytens: How would you like the relation between Vala and Adria evolve in the future?
Claudia Black: Well obviously we’ve just heard the news about season 10 being at the stage the last season for Stargate SG1, that’s not to say that the franchise won’t continue and these characters won’t continue on in some form. I know they are discussing possibility of some movie so it will be very interesting to see what would happen between Vala and Adria if there was a movie and I think it's funny when I talk about Tomin and Vala as parents discussing their very nauty child. Not only nauty but she has become very evil and very powerful. I would be very interest to see how that would play out.

Gilles Nuytens: How aware were you of Stargate before joining the show in the eight season?
Claudia Black:
Stargate is very popular in Australia, which where I was born and it’s in syndication all over the world. I think you’d have to live underground and not have come up for about 10 years to not to have heard of Stargate. I think it’s on everybody’s radar even if it's just on the periphery and for me in Australia stargate was on prime time even on a fade away network so it was very popular there so I definitely knew about it and I’d seen the movie as well.

Gilles Nuytens: Do you have any funny stories that you'd like to share about the shooting of Stargate?
Claudia Black: Well if you know anything about Chris Judge, there are about a million stories every single day. But you know, everyone, I mean I’ve had very good belly laugh with Amanda everyday when she’s on set, Michael, Ben, everyone. There are so many funny stories, I have to think about that while I answer some of the other questions.

Gilles Nuytens: If you had not chosen to become an actress, what else would you have liked to do?
Claudia Black: I would like to have a couple of lives, I think after this one in which I would be a chef, and one I would like to be in the diplomatic core and be multilingual, and in another I would maybe work for Medecins Sans Frontières or work for some organization that gives legitimate and profound relief to other countries and in another lifetime maybe ... an adventurer and what else ... a musician, a rock star, I think you have to have one lifetime where you’re a rock star. And I did come from a musical background. This lifetime so far I am definitively destined to be an actress, we’ll see what happens in the second half of my life. I'll be very interested to see if I’m still acting in 20 years time. Maybe in 1 year time ... I’m unemployed what am I talking about, I’d be interested to see if I’m acting next year!!!

Claudia Black interview - Vala - Stargate SG-1Gilles Nuytens: Outside of Stargate, do you have any other projects, professionally?
Claudia Black: I was in an interesting situation in London last year before I relocated to Vancouver. I was asked to help develop some projects so the producing aspect was interesting to me. And now of course that I am out of a job next year, I am definitely thinking about some concepts about 2 TV shows in particular and a film I’d like to make so I’ll probably be doing some meetings this year and next year about those and I mean I think now a days, especially in Australia, the industry is very quite so the artists there have to create their own opportunities so I'm going to have to hoam my skills now and become a better writer and polish up some of those skills, my producing skills, learn, find a mentor probably and learning more about things behind the camera.

Gilles Nuytens:
How do you feel about Stargate being cancelled?
Claudia Black: It’s very sad news about stargate being cancelled, the series being cancelled. I know there’s been discussion about movies, whether its theatrical movies or TV movies and it's great Atlantis continues. I really feel for everybody on the show. On Farscape we worked together for 4 or 5 years and we became family and it’s what we expected every day and it’s what we knew so to have done that for 10 years and to hear that will no longer continue, I’m very sad for people and maybe they won’t realize it until its gone. The idea of not seeing certain people every day, that’s very tough. It's hard to get used to and I think I’ve learned not to say goodbye in this industry because there’s always that hope that you’ll see people again and if i could say to anyone on the Stargate cast or crew, anything it would be Ben and I worked on Farscape and then very shortly afterwards we were together again on Stargate so the people that are very precious in your life, if you're lucky you get to see them again and I hope that happens to them also. And I think Stargate is in syndication all over the world, I don’t think the fans will ever miss the show, because there's always a way to find it. It’s like Sinfeld or any other successful show that’s had a really long run, the Simpsons. You can always find the Simpsons on Television, I’m not sure about France or Belgium. There incredibly popular shows so in one sense its going to be greatly missed and in another going to be hard to miss you know what I mean. We’re lucky, you have DVD’s, we have Ipod downloads so it’s not going to be too far away.

Gilles Nuytens: What's your opinion of a possible romance between Daniel and Vala?
Claudia Black: Well, I think it would be like an old couple who always fight all the time, so I think they would be quite miserable together. I don’t know if we should go down that road. Things always more funny before they happen rather than once they happened, like “Moonlighting” and I think that is what they always reference is that show, the chemistry between Bruce Willis and Sybil Sheppard. Once you actually consummate the relationship something dies. So I think it would be much more energy if they stay away from each other.

Claudia Black interview - Vala - Stargate SG-1Gilles Nuytens: You have played in a number of Sci-fi and fantasy shows and movies, is that your favorite genre?
Claudia Black: I’ve always loved science fiction films, “Bladerunner”, “Alien”, “Aliens”, that franchise, the “Alien” franchise was very ... I thought, interesting and exciting. Star Wars, we grew up with some spectacular science fiction movies when we were kids. Terminator, I was always very impressed by Sigourney Weaver and Linda Hamilton. I thought they played their characters beautifully, and they presented these images of very strong women and I hadn’t really seen that before and as a young virgining feminist I thought they were interesting role models. And so as an actress as I was gradually getting more work I became a professional actress, I aspired to one day playing a role like they had and the opportunities came in the form of Aeryn on Farscape and in a way Vala on Stagate SG-1 so in that sense I think that science fiction has ... you know when they write strong women they hold their own against the men they also are fighting battles just as the real female soldiers in our armies these days, feminism has gone a long way to changing the roles women play in real life let alone in film and television.

Gilles Nuytens: Are there major differences working in Australia as opposed to Canada?
Claudia Black: I think there are actually quite a few similarities. I think that Australian crews work very hard, very long hours, they don’t have the strength of a union you know, screen, actors guild in American and it’s the same in Canada, so people are expected to work harder and longer hours sometimes, I mean that is not to say that people don’t work hard in America, we just don’t have the same guidelines and the same rules, but they as a people, I think the Canadian’s have a lot in common with Australians, they have good sense of humor, very positive attitude. I have not yet worked in America so I can’t make a comparison there but I like ... everyone works as a team. Very kind people here I’ve found in Canada.

Gilles Nuytens: Isn't that hard to just leave Australia to come to live here?
Claudia Black: Well we were actually living in London before we relocated and London is very busy, very difficult city to live in sometimes, I really miss it, I do, I had a great time in London when I was there, but I think that the beauty, the natural beauty of this city here in Vancouver its phenomenal, and they are very environmentally responsible here and I am very impressed by that they have a great love of the outdoors, and I thought Australia’s loved the outdoors but Vancouver really lends itself immediately I mean you can walk out of your front door and get on your mountain bike, you can go skiing straight away on these mountains very close to the city, you can go on the harbor on a boat. It's amazing, it's very rare to have the mountains and the harbor so close to each other. So I think, that is what I will always take with me from Vancouver the way everyone enjoys their life on the weekends. I mean a move, moving countries I do it practically every year and its always difficult but this was a very nice place to come to.

Gilles Nuytens: Have you been pleased with your character's development thus far this year?
Claudia Black: Yes, it's very difficult when you are running a show with a lot of characters to server each character and in a way it was very easy to focus on Vala because everyone else, all the other characters were here for so many years appart from General Landry and Cameron Mitchell and I think that it was important with Vala, we saw her grow up a little bit, we saw the human side of Vala otherwise she just would have been always irritating all the time, so it’s good to see that she developed some slightly deep relationships with everyone on the base. The beauty of Vala ... I think ... I was saying earlier is you’re always wondering what she’s going to do next. So there’s always room for development with Vala, you just never know, she’s always surprising.

Claudia Black interview - Vala - Stargate SG-1Gilles Nuytens: Is there anybody in particular you would like to work with on future projects or in Stargate?
Claudia Black: Well I have just heard that Fred Willard is coming to work on the show, who did done a lot of wonderful Christopher Guest films, “Mighty Winds”, “Waiting for Guffman”. Very, very funny actor and I am glad to hear I will be doing some scenes with him, worked with some wonderful guest actors on Stargate and in the future, I would have loved to have worked with may she rest in peace the one from Madaline Kahn, a comedian, very funny comedian, and of course I know it's cliche, but I would love to work with Meryl Streep. I love Diane Reese, I love Joan Allen, Sigourney Weaver. There is some very interesting people out there, I mean there are a lot of people, I would love to be directed by George Clooney, Steven Soderbergh, Doug Liman, Michael Mann, Scorsese I mean the list goes on, there’s a lot of people I would love to work with. Trying to think of some younger actors. But you know when you have a baby you don’t get to watch any television or see any movies from start to finish.

Gilles Nuytens: What can you tell us about the episode you're shooting right now, and your character's involvement in it?
Claudia Black: We are filming an episode which is a very interesting story, based on a story that Ben Browder suggested to the writers. If I can talk specifically about it, I don’t want to give away spoilers. We go through the gate to investigate a museum and things are not what they seemed. We end up in a very tense situation on an alien planet and we have a first contact situation with them that doesn’t go well, doesn’t go according to plan. And think it’s an interesting story, interesting idea. Vala gets to display some of her criminal skills.

Gilles Nuytens: What has been the most joyful part of the year thus far for you, and the most stressful?
Claudia Black: As I said the 200th was the most stressful for me because I was so busy, the buildup of relocating, and having the baby and shooting every day, very long hours for many weeks when we finally got to the 200th episode and we were doing overtime as well on top of that, very difficult. The most joyful part has just been all the good days, we have a lot of laughter on set. I really enjoyed, the best days, probably for me have been when I've done a scene and a member of the crew comes up to me and says that was really funny, I really enjoyed that, that was really funny thanks very much, thank you for entertaining me. That really means a lot to me. We’ve had some really great days.

Gilles Nuytens: Do you follow any fan-based review/comments?
Claudia Black: I really don’t have time. I would be really fascinated to know what’s happening on the net right now, having to look at the response to see everyone’s feeling, I’m sure they're upset and I hope they’re finding ways to keep their spirits up. If you going to listen to reviews, you have to be prepared to accept the bad ones with the goods ones, you can’t just sit on you know, ....

Claudia Black interview - Vala - Stargate SG-1Gilles Nuytens: There are really good ones!
Claudia Black: I’ve been very lucky, TV guide, Matt Roush did a lot of reviews, they’ve all been incredibly supportive. So it's nice for me to know Vala has been so critically accepted.

Gilles Nuytens: I never read bad things about Vala...
Claudia Black: Really? I think there are some people, I have been told there have been posts on the net about myself and if you are a Vala hatter or anything she's done on the show post here. I think controversy is a good thing, I’ve been told you should always be controversial.

Gilles Nuytens: Vala became very popular.
Claudia Black: Really?

Gilles Nuytens: Yes
Claudia Black: Oh, that's nice, I certainly have enjoyed playing her.

Gilles Nuytens: What has been your favorite story?
Claudia Black: I have to say “Morpheus “ really funny, second episode of the season. I don’t know if its been on air in Belgium yet.

Gilles Nuytens: No ... they have stopped at season 8 ...
Claudia Black: Oh, really?

Gilles Nuytens: Yes ........
Claudia Black: So are you buying DVD’s.

Gilles Nuytens: Yes, sure, I have all the DVD's!
Claudia Black: Okay

Gilles Nuytens: What characters would you like to see yours developed with more?
Claudia Black: Well, we have an opportunity, Amanda Tapping and I to do some type of Vala, ... Samatha and Vala have a couple of moments in an upcoming episode called “Family Ties” so it would be nice to have a little bit character development there. It would be quite funny to do an episode with General Landry, Vala like to tease him a lot and Teal’c who she calls Muscles, he’s not the muscles from Brussels but he does have big muscles, it would be funny to do an episode with him but we have had some funny moments Chris and I have improvised this year in season 10, we are always trying to put in as many character moments as we can.

Claudia Black & Gilles Nuytens

Interview by Gilles Nuytens for The Scifi World.
Transcript by Linda Craddock.
Special thanks to Linda, David R., TheWarrior, Isto and Eric Chu for their support.


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