|Date of publishing: 6th September
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
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
the audio interview (Zipped MP3 file)
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.
Nuytens: How different
was it to play opposite Ben Browder in Farscape and
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
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.
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
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
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
Unbound was one of the funniest episode, to my opinion!
Claudia Black: Oh cool, cool, thank
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
Gilles Nuytens: Are
there major differences working in Australia as opposed
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
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.
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, ....
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
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
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.