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Karen Cliche interview

Date of publishing: 26th September 2007

Karen Cliche interview - Flash Gordon Karen Cliche has had leading roles on several television series, including Mutant X, Young Blades, Adventure Inc., Galidor, Vampire High, The Business and MTV's Undressed. She has made guest appearances on the SCI FI Original series The Dresden Files, 'Til Death Do Us Part, Big Wolf on Campus and Aaron Spelling's All Souls. Cliche has starred in the feature films Summer and Riders, and in the Lifetime telefilms Flirting With Danger and I Do (But I Don't).
In the new Flash Gordon TV show, she plays Baylin, a bounty hunter. As dangerous as she is beautiful, Baylin joins Flash and Dale on Earth as they battle the evil forces of Mongo.

Gilles Nuytens: Flash Gordon, how many episodes have you already shot?
Karen Cliche: We are starting episode 13 tomorrow, so half-way through.

Gilles Nuytens: After a few episodes of Flash Gordon, did the storylines of the show meet your expectations?
Karen Cliche: I think they got a lot better and I think the whole cast is really happy about the scripts that are coming out, for several reasons: the stories are getting better, the writers are getting to know our characters and as actors what we can do best, and what our forte’s are, so we’re really happy with the scripts and the development of the characters and where things are going and we just… we’re filming an episode right now where there’s a big twist that happens and we’re like “NO THIS IS TOO SOON I can’t believe this person finds out about Mongo!” and they do so that’s interesting, half way through the series there’s a big change, a big twist in the show. We’re really happy about that, they’re taking it into a really exciting direction, and I like where my character is going so that’s good.

Gilles Nuytens: Do you already have an idea on how the show will evolve in the future?
Karen Cliche: Oh we have no idea, we have no idea. You know, at first everyone was saying this love triangle and all this stuff circling around Flash with the girls, and now there isn’t much emphasis on that anymore. There are some episodes that do, but who knows, it really depends on how many seasons we go, if we only go one then obviously I think the show will take a certain direction. We have absolutely no idea, and I don’t want to know. I don’t know how the other casts feel about it, but I really don’t want to know, because as an actor you want it to be as real as possible. In your real life, you don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, so I really like that to happen with my character, I want to be surprised, and I want to live the real life through my character, and experience the same things and the newness of it.

Gilles Nuytens: What are your expectations for the future of Baylin?
Karen Cliche: I think I’d really like to see her incorporate herself more and more into Earth, because right now she’s pretty sheltered, she stays with Flash all the time, you don’t really see her interact on a wide range on Earth with a lot of strangers, in real life situations that could be very funny and very awkward. And actually this next episode we’re filming, Baylin and Nick, Flash’s best friend, have a long time together alone and it’s just so funny, I can’t wait to shoot those scenes, it’s really funny. You know we’d seen her do the bounty hunter thing, we’d seen that she can fight, that she can protect, but I want to see her in funnier, more awkward situations on Earth, so that’s where I hope that’s going. And who knows what will happen with her love life, but that could be very interesting, her being with someone from Earth. So I don’t know, I want to see her more on Earth, and how she gets along there.

Gilles Nuytens: Have you already heard some feedback of Baylin from the fans?
Karen Cliche: So far I’m so lucky, the fans are really responding well to her, they think she’s cool. I mean a lot of my fans throughout the years have been young girls who really appreciate and look up to these characters that I play, the strong female characters, and I think Baylin is no exception to that, I think that more people will come on board and be fans of hers, because she’s quite charming in very strange ways. I think the reaction has been good so far, and I’m really happy about that. The show has its mixed reviews but I think that if people keep giving it a chance, every character is going to be more and more loved and appreciated by the fans, I hope so anyway.

Gilles Nuytens: I have read a lot of criticism about the show. Are you aware of that and what do you think?
Karen Cliche: Yeah we are, and you know what, it’s funny because I had done some sci-fi and a lot of genre stuff before this, so I knew what to expect. I think the other cast members maybe were a little bit optimistic and maybe even naïve about it, but I was holding my breath, not because I didn’t believe in the show, but because I knew that when you take something that people have known about and loved for so long, and you re-do it, it’s like your mother’s favorite recipe and someone does it but changes all these things in it, people get angry, I know I do, and so at first there’s a resistance to it and all you want to do is criticize it, and sure it may have its fault, but I think as the episodes get better, I think that if people stop criticizing it for what they think it should have been and just look at it for what it is, I think they may learn to enjoy it more than they are. And some people are, of course the negative is always what’s heard the loudest. You know I’m used to this, I’m used of shows being trashed and spoken of negatively, but I think people will get used to it and will learn to love it more.

Gilles Nuytens: It’s like the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica. At first the new show was heavily criticized by the fans but now it’s acclaimed by everyone.
Karen Cliche: You know that’s funny because I know a lot of great shows that started of, their pilot was just terrible, people hated it. And I know first hand, when I came on Mutant X, and I joined on season three, and I replaced a really loved character and came in as this new shall we say bitchy character at first, and I got trashed by the fans, like really mean terrible things were said about me, because they were so upset that Emma was gone, “who’s this person she’s not nice”, so I lived with that for a few months until people stopped and forgave the fact that Emma was gone and looked at my character and started to understand her, and then all of a sudden she became one of the favorite characters. That’s when I say I’m kind of used to this, I know people are really like “grrraaaaa” at first, and then they’ll soften up and then they can have a sense of humor about it. A lot of the time it’s negative at first and then people change their mind, so I hope that will happen here.

Gilles Nuytens: Let’s hope so. What aspects of your personality do you share with your character and what aspects of her are completely unlike you?
Karen Cliche: First what we share which is a lot of the same things that I’ve shared with the characters that I play, they’re all very strong, kind of fearless characters, and unapologetic for their confidence and all that, but once you start to discover that it’s not that it’s fake what they’re trying to do but they have a protection, they have this shield that they wear which is this brash, strong, confident appearance, and inside once you find out what made them that way, then you understand that it maybe isn’t as tough as you think, so that’s what I can relate to with the characters that I play. But people just always assume that I am so this and that and strong and independent, which I am in ways, but I think in different ways that I portray out to the world, on my downtime I love to sit at home quiet with my cats and candles and soft music and people who meet me would think that I’m loud all the time, that I love to party, and it’s just this outward appearance that I understand people can misjudge at first, so I really connect to the characters in that way. And I like to bring some vulnerability and some understanding to them after the initial meeting. And then what I’m not like with Baylin is that Baylin is very serious, she takes everything she does very serious, everything is a mission, not to say that she doesn’t have any sense of humor about it either, but I’m so the opposite, I don’t really take anything I do… I don’t take myself too seriously, I love to joke around, I have very self-depricating humor, I think it’s hilarious to laugh at yourself, I put myself in situations where I think it’s funny, and if it’s at my expense, oh who cares, I think it’s so funny. So I’m not like Baylin in that way at all, I’m a goof, and Baylin is not. I think those are the two things I would say, the opposite and the same.

Gilles Nuytens: She’s so serious that sometimes it’s funny.
Karen Cliche: And then when you see that sometimes I make certain place, certain moments when if you’re looking closely she does a certain eyebrows lift when she knows she’s being coy and she’s playing with you but she’s not the type who is like “HAHAHA” and extravagant with her humor or her actions at all. So she’s very serious and a little bit uptight but I think it’s so funny but if you pay she knows that she’s a little bit uptight sometimes too.

Gilles Nuytens: I see a bit of similarities with Baylin and another sci-fi character: Teal’c from Stargate SG-1. Both are warriors, aliens, characters having a human form that have betrayed their former masters and live on Earth, and both have some difficulties integrating into the human society which results in funny moments.
Karen Cliche: I don’t watch Stargate, but that is true, that’s exactly what Baylin is and what happened to her, she left Mongo, she doesn’t belong on Mongo anymore, even when she was working for Ming, she didn’t want to work for Ming she was just trying to survive. So she had absolutely no loyalty to him. Now that she is on Earth, it’s funny enough to have two people or someone from a different culture, coming to a completely different culture, and watch them, there are so many committed moments and embarrassing moments and awkward moments that they experience, but imagine coming from another planet and coming onto a whole other planet where everything is different. You know there’s a lot of funny moments and opportunities for that that we like to play on the show, because it’s true she can’t just show up on Earth and be “well no problem, I know Earth”, so we make sure we play certain moments when she is “what is going on?” right.

Gilles Nuytens: You should watch the first episode of Stargate SG-1, I’m sure you would find some similarities.
Karen Cliche: Ok. It’s been on a long time! It’s filmed here too.

Gilles Nuytens: It’s been 10 years. I hope Flash Gordon will stay as long as Stargate.
Karen Cliche: So do we! We’ll see! If the fans keep watching and support it, that’s pretty much what determines a series life span.

Gilles Nuytens: Are there any practical jokes from the set you’d like to share?
Karen Cliche: (laughs) There are! But all I’m going to say is that I have a very dirty sense of humor and it’s pretty vulgar at times so I can’t share them publicly but I think anybody on the cast and crew would agree that I have a bit of a trucker mouth… and Eric, it’s funny because Eric is so politically correct and so sweet and so nice with everybody but with me when us two are together we just go off and to the most twisted, deranged places in humor, so we do a lot of jokes like that, but I will say that the one thing we always do, is that there are many fart machines on set and I have attached to my make-up bag there’s a little remote control that has 6 different fart sounds, so we like to do them when someone is bending over we go “pbllltt” you know and everyone laughs, and it’s completely stupid but after 16 hours on set you want to laugh at something whether it’s stupid or not, so that’s a little secret to our set.

Gilles Nuytens: How much creative freedom were you given with this character?
Karen Cliche: You know actually with my character I was lucky in the sense that I could start with a blank sleet and the writers could, and the costume and the make-up and hair, so there were no expectations for my character from the fans because she didn’t exist in the comics. There wasn’t even too much discussion on what exactly Baylin had to be like, I think we just let her develop and I kept throwing little things in and throwing little comedic moments where I thought they were appropriate and everybody seem to agree and like that so they keep writing that stuff in so actually I would say there was of creative freedom but without much discussion about it, they didn’t say “Ok Karen you do what you want” they just let me do it, and with a combination of efforts Baylin was created and everybody seems to be happy with her.

Gilles Nuytens: What do you enjoy the most about working on Flash Gordon?
Karen Cliche: Oh Gosh… I would have to say, as with all of my series, I’ve been very lucky to go to work and to like and love everybody and have such a great time and be with people who are professional and dedicated to their work, if that wasn’t there no matter how much I loved my character and the show, I think it would change my feeling of going to work every day. But because it’s so much fun and everybody is so gracious and nice and hard-working, that makes everything on top of this character that I love even better, it’s just a combination of everything. I really like Baylin, I’m really happy to be playing her every day, I think she’s a really cool woman but I really have to say that the atmosphere on set is what I think we’re all the most happy about.

Gilles Nuytens: In previous interviews, you've spoken about how boring it can be to portray "normal" characters. So what aspect of the personality of a character do you think a "normal" character could have to interest you?
Karen Cliche: Well when I said that it was because a lot of people interviewing me were saying “you’ve played a lot of different genres” and I’m like “yeah I’ve played two aliens, a mutant, a musketeer, a man, a vampire” and I was saying that I really liked this genre stuff now to the point that when I play a regular girl, if she doesn’t have any huge issues, I’m kind of going “Wow where are my superpowers, where’s another world?”. I don’t know it depends on the character, when we say normal character, it depends if she’s this maybe outrageous, like I played a girl who didn’t have superpowers obviously last year in a show called “The Business”, which we just got nominated for a Gemini award - which is the Canadian awards for TV – for Best Ensemble Cast, so you can write that down we’re really happy about that, so when I was playing her I was playing a normal girl but she was an ex-porn star and she was kind of funny and a little bit ditsy so that was really fun, I think what I’m saying is that I really like characters who have something really outrageous and unique about them, and when they don’t I’m like “Boring…”. There’s only so much you can do with a character if it’s not written in a certain way, I much prefer these kinds of characters, this genre type stuff.

Gilles Nuytens: Having a French background, how do you see yourself dubbed with another voice for the French versions?
Karen Cliche: *(in French) J’ai fait une série et on a tourné à Marseilles pendant trois mois* [Translation: I was on a show and we shot in Marseilles during 3 months], it was called Adventure Inc., it was about 5 years ago, and they dubbed my voice which would be much better, my French is not perfect enough just from not speaking it very much anymore in my life so *(in French) ma cousine reste à Chartres en France* [Translation: My cousin stays in Chartres in France] and she called me and said “I just heard your voice in French!” and it was this very deep, sexy, French voice, and I said “Oh cool that’s hilarious!” because it’s so not my voice, but I would much prefer someone else do my voiceovers than me in French, that’s for sure, they could do a much better job.

Gilles Nuytens: So far which role that you have portrayed was the most challenging and why?
Karen Cliche: Well I have to say probably… About 3 years ago I was on a show called “Young Blades” where I played a girl who had to disguise as a man to get into the Musketeers, it was the best time of my life, but as usual with the best things in your life, they are usually the most challenging. I hardly wore any make-up, I had bigger eyebrows, painted-in big brow eyebrows and my hair pulled back, no make-up; we were shooting in hi-definition which is very unforgiving, and I had to be an expert sword fighter, and we learnt how to ride horses and sword fight at the same time, and I had to keep my voice very low. So there were all these things that every day I couldn’t be lazy about, I really had to commit to walking like a man, talking like a man, sword fighting, all of these things, but I tell you it was the best time of my life, I absolutely loved it but it was the most challenging, it was the toughest for me to pull that off, and not make it too much of a joke even if it was a little bit of a comedy, you want the dramatic moments to be justified with you taking it seriously. So yeah I would say that, I don’t know if you guys see it over there, I don’t think it plays over there, does it? I think it plays in Eastern Europe, like Bulgaria, Romania, I’ve had a lot of fans from over there who know about the show.

Gilles Nuytens: Not in Belgium, I don’t think so. What are you the most proud of in your career?
Karen Cliche: I’m proud of the fact that I’ve done pretty well for myself I think, I’ve never wanted to be super-famous and super-rich, I’ve never moved to LA to do that, I’ve always been lucky enough to work in Canada and a little bit abroad, I’m really happily married, I have great friends and a great family, I have great cats and those are the things I’m proud of, I think I’ve managed my life pretty well, to date, I would say. I’m very grounded, I work for a living, my career is not my life, my career is my career, my friends and my family certainly do take priority sometimes over that, and vice-versa. I think I would say I’m proud of where I am and how well my life is functioning at this point. You know because sometimes people say “Oh I’m super famous, I’m super rich, I have this great career” and maybe they don’t have anything else, and the opposite. I’m really happy, I feel that I have everything that I need in my life right now. Except for kids, those will come soon, *(In French) je veux des enfants!* [Translation: I want kids!]

Gilles Nuytens: Can you speak about your experience on “The Dresden Files”?
Karen Cliche: Oh that was a great experience. I did that in December last year, a lot of the same crew was from Mutant X, which was great, so it was so fun for me to go to work and see my old crew from a few years back. And Paul was just a great, great person to work with. Again, it was that genre sci-fi type show, and I really like that, I thought the storyline was really interesting, I got to play a really interesting character, very double-sided, it was a lot of fun, it was about 6 days of shooting and I had a great time. I heard it’s cancelled, which is too bad.

Gilles Nuytens: I haven’t watched all the show yet, but I like what I’ve seen.
Karen Cliche: Yeah, I did too. I really liked that storyline. I liked the concept.

Gilles Nuytens: If you were given the opportunity to play a character of your choice in a movie of your choice, what would you choose?
Karen Cliche: I would love to, and I’ve only had a few opportunities in my career to do this, I love very well written witty romantic comedies, and I love them especially if they have a little bit of a dark edge to them. There’s a film that I did called “Summer”, and I just loved it, I mean it was very low-budget, it was a long time ago, you know a few people from Montreal who put this film together, but to this day it was the best written movie I’ve ever done, it was about three of us, two guys and a girl, me, about our summer, coming out of school and not wanting to grow up and get on with our lives but it was so well-written and so funny that I just loved playing that, and I’m not known for romantic comedies at all, I’ve played these really tough, kind of mean, bitchy characters, but I have this whole other side to me that I love to explore and when I get a chance to do that, I’m so happy. So I think that if I did a film, I would really, really, really want it to be a romantic comedy, a very well written dark romantic comedy.

Gilles Nuytens: What will you keep in mind from Mutant X?
Karen Cliche: I just have the best memories from that show, I met my husband on the show, he was the boom operator, and the cast, Vicky Pratt I just love her to death, and Forbes and Victor the cast was just unbelievable, I loved going to work every day for that reason. I really liked Lexa, I really liked how they wrote her, I loved her character arc though the show, and it’s too bad it didn’t go a fourth season, because there was a lot of really good stuff that could have happened between her and Forbes’ character, Jesse, and I was really looking forward to that, because Forbes and I had great chemistry, and we really liked working together. So nothing but fond memories of Mutant X. I’m really sad it didn’t get another season. I know a lot of fans are really sad too, I keep getting letters “Are you sure Mutant X is not going for a fourth season?” and I’m like “No, sorry!”.

Gilles Nuytens: It’s always the case when a show is cancelled. But what can we do…
Karen Cliche: But buy the DVD and watch it over and over!

Gilles Nuytens: Or win the lottery and finance…
Karen Cliche: And make the series go again! That’s a good idea!

Gilles Nuytens: In one or two words, how would you describe your co-stars from Flash Gordon? Gina Holden?
Karen Cliche: Gina? One or two words… Beautiful, big eyes, and fun.

Gilles Nuytens: Eric Johnson?
Karen Cliche: Witty and, how to put this in one word, oh God! I want to say that he is very enthusiastic. Actually you know what, I would say that Gina is enthusiastic, and Eric is fun. Can I switch my answers? So Gina is enthusiastic, and Eric is fun, Eric and I laugh a lot, we have a lot of fun together.

Gilles Nuytens: Jody Racicot?
Karen Cliche: Funny, funny, funny, and twisted. So definitely hilarious.

Gilles Nuytens: Jonathan Walker?
Karen Cliche: Jonathan is very professional, and a fantastic guy, very nice guy.

Gilles Nuytens: Anna Van Hooft?
Karen Cliche: Beautiful, and…oh God I don’t want to say the same thing about everybody… Oh God, I’m going to say the same thing about everybody! Beautiful and very nice.

Gilles Nuytens: John Ralston?
Karen Cliche: John, I just love. He wouldn’t say that he is a funny guy because you have to really pay attention. But when you pay attention, God he is hilarious, he’s very very funny, and a great actor.

Gilles Nuytens: Andee Frizzell?
Karen Cliche: Really nice, and very hard-working.

Gilles Nuytens: T.J. Scott?
Karen Cliche: T.J. Scott… I love T.J. He is so energetic and a great visionary. You really feel like when you’re shooting his thing he’s got this vision of it, and you just want to be in his little movie, you’re just like “Take me away”, he just has these great, fun, cool ideas.

Gilles Nuytens: Paul Shapiro?
Karen Cliche: Paul Shapiro… Hilarious, he is really funny and one of our favorite directors to date, and T.J. we just love.

Gilles Nuytens: Panou?
Karen Cliche: I haven’t worked too much with Panou, but like I said there’s next episode, we just actually emailed and we’re like “Oh my God it’s so funny our scene is coming up!”, so we’re very excited. Panou is a very… I would say suave, he is very cool, like a cool cat and a really nice guy.

Gilles Nuytens: Is there anything else about Flash Gordon that you would like to say that we haven’t talked about yet?
Karen Cliche: Only that the show gets better and everybody’s characters become very well-written and everybody gells so well together, I think the show just gets better and better, and I hope that people keep watching it and give it a chance, and see it for what it really is, and I think it’s a really great show, we believe in it, so we hope that everybody else will too.

Gilles Nuytens: Last question: what can we expect from you in the future?
Karen Cliche: Well that all depends how long Flash Gordon goes, but I definitely see myself having a couple of kids soon, I don’t know how long I will be acting or how often I’ll be doing it in my life, I have a lot of other interests that hopefully I can do all at the same time: have kids, own a little wine bar, do great movies and great TV, support my women’s charities… I hope I can do it all, and be happy.

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© 2007 Interview by Gilles Nuytens for The Scifi World
Transcript by Mathieu Pesin (Angel10) - Second read by Rene Burl


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