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Claudia Black interview (2)

Date of publishing: 11th February 2008

Claudia Black interview - Vala - Stargate SG-1 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". She also played with Vin Diesel in the cinema movie "Pitch Black".
But she got an international renown by acting Aeryn Sun in the sci-fi show "Farscape" with Ben Browder and with the role of Vala in Stargate SG-1. This interview has been conducted by Renee Burl during Dragon*Con 2007

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

Renee Burl: What did you like most about your Farscape experience?
Claudia Black: Working... was my favourite part about working on Farscape. *laughs* I really am a very busy person. I like to be active mentally and physically and Farscape certainly employed both parts of me, my body and my mind and it was exhausting on both levels but really satisfying. You know, I would go home feeling that I had truly worked hard and we felt that we earned everything that came to us and we as a team as well, it was very satisfying when we could sort of problem-solve everyday and feel that we'd won some battles. So it was, yeah it was grueling but it was satisfying.

Renee Burl: If you hadn't played Aeryn who would you have wanted to play and why?
Claudia Black: John Crichton. *laughs* He got all the fun lines for the first however many seasons. I mean I don't know in a way on Farscape if it would have mattered what character you played because they were all so... interesting visually. Some of the characters were just... I mean you look at Zhaan, that make-up was, was seminal. The amount of work and research and development and time that went into creating Neeyala, I thought that was amazing. They did give me the opportunity to wear a make-up full-time and I graciously declined even if that meant not appearing on the show at all. I just knew that wasn't appropriate for me, it wouldn't work for me. But I have to say, I mean Aeryn was such, I believe, I might be biased but I thought she was the most interesting character because she had so much potential and so much scope and range so there was so much to discover... with her, playing her and for the audience to discover over those years.

Renee Burl: What have you taken from your experience on Farscape and incorporated into your new roles?
Claudia Black: I always liked to take whatever I've learned technically as an actor and move on to a new job as soon as possible so that I can use those new skills and employ them immediately. And I had that opportunity with Farscape because I jumped straight from the Peacekeeper Wars to do Prometheus Unbound episode with Stargate and I was amazed, it was refreshing to see... you know, just the skills seem invisible, they become inherent and you hope that you don't loose them and forget them but everything's like the first day of school every time you walk onto a new set. I found that my ability to adjust happened more quickly to accept my surroundings and relax and give a performance that was focused and disciplined. It was easier than it would've been before I'd done all those years on Farscape. So it trained me to work and be disciplined at a very, sort of, fast pace.

Renee Burl: Did you find that your Farscape experience gave you visibility or kept you from the visibility of the public?
Claudia Black: That's an interesting question. We felt that we're working in a vacuum on Farscape and that people thought we were all suffering from some sort of group delusion of employment because the network, the local network who had purchased a percentage of the show to air it there wouldn't... commit to an air date so the show was starting to air in New Zealand and other territories and was obviously on Sci-fi channel. We had no real visceral connection to that or no real understanding of it because we weren't meeting people who were watching it. We weren't seeing it ourselves and it's still bizarre to me as an actor, I think, "I'm on television sometimes" and it really doesn't sink in. I go to work, I do my job and it's partly because, I think, we worked on Farscape for so many years not seeing it on television around us and not having people on the street recognizing us and talking to us about it. I feel like I have in a way an ordinary job and I get very surprised now in the States when I'm walking around in L.A. and people say "Oh! You were in Pitch Black and you were in whatever..." and I just forget that there's that public aspect to the job which before with Farscape never really, you know that issue never surfaced.

Renee Burl: Changing from Farscape. Paul Goddard managed to get you to sing on his CD and Move and Groovy were both really wonderful songs. Any chance of more in the future?
Claudia Black: Paul, I mean actors always faff about on set, you know we sing and we tell jokes and we do whatever and you realize that people do have other skills beyond what they've been specifically asked to do on any given show. And it was obvious to me that Paul had, he's an amazing actor and he's very well known in the theatre community and my mother knew his work and when my mother's friends met him at our engagement party, my husband and mine's engagement party, "Ohh! Is that Paul Goddard!". So Paul had said to me "Just from your speaking voice, Claudia, I know that you, I suspect that you can sing." and I, and we would sing on set together occasionally but it was a very personal thing for me, singing, and I'd lost my, sort of nerve, singing and I really didn't want to do it anymore and he sort of coaxed me out of the cupboard with that one and my voice was sort of very rough and very green again and he said "Well it's more that sort of the timber and the quality of your voice that I'm after than any specific sort of technical vocal skills at this point". I said "Well, that's all you're getting, babe. *laughs* Ain't no skills anymore.", but it gave me a little bit more courage and I realized that I've missed music and I, the fans had been asking "When are we going to hear you sing, when are we going to hear you sing?" and I just sort of plucked up the courage to learn three chords on a guitar and accompany myself with it for a convention and... that was nerve wracking for me and it was really, I like to put myself in a situation where I'm not feeling entirely confident because it's really good to sort of... I feel it's important to push myself and make sure I take myself outside the box and take bigger risks and so it was good to do that. And I'd love to do a musical film I think, that would be something I'd definitely love to do so I'll see what happens.

Renee Burl: That'd be great.
Claudia Black: Yeah.

Renee Burl: In your interview for the Scapecast podcast you mention recording an audio book. What is the title of the audio book and when will it be released?
Claudia Black: The author of the talking books is George R.R. Martin, a very famous sci-fi and fantasy writer and he's got such a large volume of work that they're doing, I believe a three-part compendium of all of his short stories to date and the written, the print, will be released at the same time as the audio books and, people in the community are very excited. There aren't many female roles or female voices so to speak in a lot of his stories and the producer from the talking books studio asked for me and I was delighted to go and do it. I found the stories really interesting and way out and wild and I was not familiar with his work before but I found that really fun to do. Very exciting, very dramatic and, of course, with the science fiction cliché of impossible names to pronounce that was the one tricky aspect *laughs* of doing a talking book as opposed to reading them. I don't know how much he personally reads his work out loud when he's doing it but those names were nice and challenging.

Renee Burl: The Farscape webisodes. Are you going to be involved in those?
Claudia Black: I've just recently heard about the Farscape webisodes. I haven't specifically been asked to participate. I am, however, due to give birth in around two months time and I think that that'll be my next project. Giving birth and bringing my child, god willing, into the world. So yeah, I think I'll be consumed by family matters for a while.

Renee Burl: A little busy.
Claudia Black: Yeah, a little busy. With the toddler as well so, you know...

Renee Burl: How old's your toddler?
Claudia Black: He's 20 months, 21 months now so...

Renee Burl: You're going to be very busy.
Claudia Black: Mmhmmmm.

Renee Burl: SG-1. Do you miss it?
Claudia Black: I miss the people of SG-1. I made some grand, grand friends and the luxury of this business and the tyranny of it is that you travel. So sometimes that travel brings me back towards them and to them and sometimes it takes me far away. Oviously, e-mail and internet being what it is, text messages, all those things help to stay connected so it's a good time to meet people around the world and be able to maintain those friendships. But it's the thing that I've always loved most about the business I think, it's the travel and the people. We all sort of agree we're all canny folks really, we're just a travelling circus and you don't know when you're going to see those people again. But both on camera and off camera there are some certain members of the crew I've made some, just delicious friendships with people and just, it's so good for the soul to connect with those people in person again, so... Yeah, I miss not having that atmosphere with those people everyday but I think there is a particular spirit, there's a kinship in this business and you find that type of a person whenever you go on to a new job and it always feels like home, so... that you know just this weekend I've been able to catch up with Lexa and Michael and Chris and everyone. It's a real blessing to see them again.

Renee Burl: If MGM would greenlight more SG-1 movies in the future would we see Vala?
Claudia Black: Oh, Vala can never die! Vala's fantastic and she must be along for as many rides as people want her along. She's just so easy to play. She's, you know, it's... I think that acting when at its best is being in the sandbox so... she's the most playful character I've had the fortune to portray so... and just as I said yesterday on the panel, the Stargate panel, the buoyancy on set and the atmosphere that those actors create really helped in form my process and I really wouldn't want to attempt comedy in a vacuum where other people aren't as supportive or in as good a mood or taking it at the right level of seriousness, taking the people you're working with seriously enough to be there for them but not taking yourself seriously enough that it becomes a, you know, that you have an attitude that pervades on the set that affects other people's ability to enjoy themselves, so... yeah, I'd love, I don't know if I would ever be asked back, who knows, but I think Vala is definitely a character that's worth pursuing in the future.

Renee Burl: And I would like to say thank you very much. I really appreciated your time.
Claudia Black: Thank you very much, they were great questions.

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© 2007-2008 - Interview by Renee Burl for The Scifi World.
Transcript by lepinkainen.
Contributions by Gilles Nuytens, Eva Porter, Katarzyna Godycka


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