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Lani Tupu - The ambiguous Captain Crais, and the voice of Pilot.
How did you come to join the cast of Farscape?
Like everyone else I auditioned for Farscape. The most interesting aspect of that was that I was auditioning for the role of D'Argo.
It was over a period of about three months, so it was quite intense. I went into the studio, and I would pass this great tall gentleman every time I did, and I eventually found out his name was Anthony Simcoe.
I should also add that there were wonderful women who were attending the audition at the time, Virginia Hey being one of them, and then Claudia Black, so it was a joy to discover that those two women joined the series.
It came down to the wire and Anthony got the role, and a week later I was offered the role of Captain Crais. At the time I had no idea who Captain Crais was. Rockne O'Bannon flew into Australia for one of the casting sessions, and he told us the concept of Farscape, which at that stage was called Space Chase. At the time, when Rockne O'Bannon explained the concept, I thought what a wonderful idea for a show. Just to be part of that would be a fantastic thing.
When I was offered the role of Captain Crais, I thought it was just one episode, having lost out to Anthony. Then I was offered the bible to read, the outline of all the characters, and I discovered who Captain Crais was and thought, "This person? You bet I want to be part of it!" So that's how it happened.
Do you think they had anyone else lined up to play Crais?
I have no idea. David Kemper was very complimentary, and stated that after they had given the role of D'Argo to Antony, that there was only one other person they could give the role of Crais to, and it came to me.
How did you end up voicing Pilot as well?
They asked me a few days later whether or not I would like to test for Pilot, and I did. That was a wonderful experience, being in the studio taping my test onto a little tape recorder, and then the rest is history. Not many actors have the opportunity of not only playing one role in a TV series but playing two.
What sort of guidance did you get on how to play Pilot?
Initially they said play him like a stressed accountant. I thought, "OK, I'll give it my best shot."
The interesting aspect of the two roles is that vocally they are at each end of the spectrum. There were people in the production crew who had no idea I was voicing Pilot, until the credits rolled at the end.
Sometimes on Friday evening, once the show had been taped and put together a month or two months down the track, we would have a screening. There would be people coming up to me and mentioning the fact that they had no idea that I was voicing Pilot, and I saw that as a compliment. [In] all of my work as a voiceover artist, I've always maintained that it's really great when people don't know who you are.
Were you at all interested in sci-fi before joining Farscape?
I'd watched various series on television, like Lost in Space. I think one of my favourite sci-fi series was the one with Patrick McGoohan, The Prisoner. That was one of the best science fiction series ever.
In terms of my personal choice, I never sat down in front of a television and watched Star Trek or things like that. Then, when I started shooting Farscape, I was aware of this science fiction genre. It is an amazing genre to watch, it's to do with imagination.
One of the things I loved about Farscape as an actor was that I could play stuff on a big scale. It's very Shakespearian for me. You weren't earthbound by any conventions, [and] because of that it was wonderful and very freeing to play.
Would you play another sci-fi role?
Oh yes, absolutely. If there are any science ficition directors out there, I'd certainly play another role.
Out of their minds
Was it difficult to switch between the two characters?
I made a choice for myself that I would not play Captain Crais as one-dimensional. I played him as a person who was searching for something, who was troubled, who needed to solve certain problems.
I think that's come across. With various roles that actors play, [one thing I don't like] is that they are given a wonderful opportunity to play a fully rounded character and they make it one-dimensional. I don't think that's really exciting for an audience. The audience love to be intrigued, to be led along a path of really what is going to happen next.
There's a wonderful series called 24, and that's one of the best television series I've ever watched, because you don't know what's going to happen next. That was my brief that I gave myself right from the beginning.
With Pilot, I made sure that he was a navigator, whose sole responsiblity was looking after Moya, and then looking after everyone else inside Moya. In many ways, Pilot was also a captain, but at the other end of the spectrum.
Mad or bad?
Was Crais evil, or just flawed?
I think he was probably flawed, but I wouldn't consider him as evil. When he stole the baby, for example, his sole intention in doing that was actually looking after Talyn. Making sure that he was taken out of trouble and that he could teach Talyn the art and strategey of war.
In terms of everybody else's perception, he was evil in that he stole a baby, but his intention was to take care of Talyn. No, I never saw him as an evil person. He was searching for something.
Which episodes were your favourites?
I think Won't Get Fooled Again is one of my favourite episodes. Just in terms of being free in the character to explore a bit of humour, and have a bit of fun with that.
One of the other episodes I really enjoyed was Green Eyed Monster, and one of my favourites has got to be the final episode where Crais bows out, because of the complexity and the subtlety of the stakes at the moment in that episode. As an actor I really really loved that.
Out with a bang
Did Crais meet his end in the way you'd imagined?
I remember reading the episode and turning the page and reading the screen directions which stated that Crais and the ship blows up. And I'm going, "What do you mean the ship blows up? If the ship blows up that obviously means that Crais bows out." I remember David Kemper at the time saying, "Don't worry about that."
[And I replied], "What do you mean, don't worry about it?" That was the end of Crais.
In some ways, I'm kind of nostalgic for that [character], and I would have liked to have seen a conclusion to Crais' character. For me it never happened, it was abrupt.
But, as people keep on saying, it was a noble end.
Back from the dead
Was it strange continuing on the show after Crais' death?
It was, though at least I was still working.
It also meant that I had a stake in the show that I was very proud of, and to this day I think the show has made its stamp. Farscape made a stamp and a mark in science fiction history forever, and I'm very very proud. To continue having Pilot as a character in there and being part of the show, I was very happy [about].
In terms of science fiction shows in history, it's been a really amazing journey, and an incredible one in terms of the storyline that came out of it, the twists and turns.
I remember David Kemper saying in one interview, "We're not inventing the wheel, but what we are doing with it is giving it a completely different spin." And it was true.
The sad thing is, it was really really unfortunate that Australians didn't really get to see the quality of the show. In Australia at the time, you had the Olympics, and the whole country was behind it in terms of the quality of the athletes. In the arts, there was a little show that wasn't being plugged, and the head of programming for Channel 9 at the time, really missed the mark.
Has it now been shown in Australia?
It's been shown in bits and pieces. Now I think it's on Fox Kids. But it's an adult show.
Troll de woll
Did you enjoy returning as a troll in season four?
I liked the fact that I had an opportunity to play a different character. I loved playing the troll. What I didn't love was the make-up process.
When I think about Anthony Simcoe sitting in the chair with three to four hour make-up every day, I'm really pleased I didn't get D'Argo. I don't have the patience for that. It was confirmed playing the troll.
It took an hour for me to do the makeup for Crais, strangely, and most people would go, "Well, all you had to do was pull your hair into a bun and flick it back and powder yourself down," but Crais' makeup was fairly meticulous. But for playing the troll, I had to sit there and have all the glue slapped on my face and be patient, and that took three hours, and three quarters of an hour to take it off. So I will never say yes to prosthetics. It's not me.
I remember doing stageplays where I had to wear moustaches, and as soon as I opened the bottle of glue to stick on my face, man, I hated that. Prosthetics and me, no, never.
Writes and wrongs
What was it like working with Ben Browder on the episodes that he wrote?
What was great about Ben was that even though he had written the shows he was incredibly gracious and would always say, "Look, I wrote the stuff, but you do what you like with it. I'm not going to be here trying to direct it the way that I wrote it."
He was wonderful in that respect, just letting us play the role exactly as we saw fit. I think by that stage he knew enough of us as actors, [to know] what we were capable of doing.
Fashion for the final frontier
Did you enjoy the leather-oriented costuming on Farscape?
Oh, yes, I did. It made us look fairly butch. I loved the costumes.
Do you still have the same natty facial hair?
Yes, I have.
I actually had a goatee prior to Farscape, because I'd worked on a series called Flipper, where I was meant to play a Portugeuse Count, so I grew it for that role. So, I go and work on Flipper, and who was the star of the show at that time? None other than a little lass called Jessica Alba, who went on to play Dark Angel.
So I had [the goatee] when I went and tested for Farscape, so kept it for Farscape. And god bless 'em, I still had shoulder length hair, and they bought that as well.
What was the worst thing about working on Farscape?
The worst thing was getting up at four o'clock in the morning.
That was the hardest thing, because I'm a night person, and waking up two or three hours later was not my cup of tea.
At least all I had to do was sleep on the way out to the set, which was about an hour away from Sydney, at Homebush where they had the Olympics. By the time breakfast rolled around I was wide awake.
What was the best thing about Farscape for you?
Being on a show that was a hit was such a wonderful thing to have happened. We only knew it was a hit by the time we got to [the Farscape convention at] Burbank, and saw fans for the first time, because it hadn't been aired in Australia at that point. We had no idea if it was good, bad or ugly.
We arrived in Burbank, California, for the first Farscape convention, and stepped out on stage and there were close to a thousand people in the audience. Up until that point we had no idea, but as soon as I stepped out on that stage I thought, "Oh gosh, this is really fugging different. I think we're on to a hit here."
It gave us great impetus to keep on playing, when we went back to Australia. We were shooting it in isolation there. It was like being dressed for a party, but there wasn't a party around.
It's been confirmed every year [when] I've gone to various conventions, how popular it really was, and what a cult hit it was.
The great spinoff is I get to meet people from other shows, people from Star Trek, people from Babylon 5, Catwoman, it's fantastic. When I'm invited to conventions I really love it, and I enjoy the aspect of the travel as well. I've been to London twice and also to America, and I wouldn't have had an opportunity to do that if I hadn't have been on the show.
What was your reaction to the news of Farscape's cancellation?
I was in Texas at the time, and a fan came up to me and said, "How do you feel about the show being cancelled?"
I had flown out prior to two days final filming on season four, and I went, "I beg your pardon? Could you repeat that?" They said, "How do you feel about the show being cancelled?" and I said, "It's been cancelled?" and they said, "Oh, you haven't heard," and I said, "Not until now."
The next day a friend brought in a confirmation which came off the net, which was Ben and Ricky and David Kemper talking [in a live chat]. Then I realised that it really had been cancelled. So it was a great blow, to say the least.
The funny thing was, no one actually phoned me after that and confirmed it for me. So it was really strange, there was no final confirmation for me.
Do you think that the show will ever be revived?
No, I don't think so. I think it's gone.
I think there was a possibility that a film might happen, but it's too far down the track now. People are working on other projects. It would have been great to have worked on the film, just to complete it and give some kind of conclusion, but that's not to be.
In the true nature of Farscape, it ended the way it always finished at the end of each season, [with] a cliffhanger, but this was a major cliffhanger.
Everyone was expecting to go onto season five, and for that it was such a great shock, [but] in some ways, I like to bow out of a show when it's really at its peak, when it's running really well.
You don't want to drag on a show until it peters out. [Farscape] went out at the top.
Did you have a favourite puppet as a child?
It's not a puppet, but I remember seeing Lost in Space, you know, "Danger, danger, Will Robinson." [I liked] that character, the robot.
That's the interesting thing, the robot was always for me a character. The way that I played Pilot, was always as a character. I always referred to Rygel as a character, even though I'm standing in front of a puppet, and there are four people by my feet looking up at me. For me I was always playing to Rygel as a character.
Were you in the same room as Pilot when you voiced him?
I was voicing Pilot about two months after they actually shot the episode.
Initially we started out with having yours truly on the set, and then it became logistically impossible to have me working as Crais on one set, and then rushing off to voice Pilot on the other.
Tackling the bard
What are you up to at the moment?
I guess one of the loveliest aspects of not being a regular every week on the show meant that I was able to do other television series in Australia, and work on films like Lantana. I had a wonderful cameo in that.
I've just finished a tour, on stage, with a play called Away, which is a classic contemporary Australian play set in the sixties. I've just finished touring that through New South Wales.
On the tour I decided to give myself a challenge which was to begin studying Othello. It's one of those mountains I've really wanted to climb as an actor, and I've begun that journey, so what I'm ready to do right now is tackle Othello. So if there's any British directors out there that want to do the role with an Australian/Kiwi actor, I'm ready to come to England and work on that.
That's taking up a lot of my time right now, as well as touring America doing conventions.