Sexual Siren"I'm not like that at all!" insistsGigi Edgley,
alias Farscape's high speed street kid Chiana.
by Ian Spelling
When asked to describe Farscape co-star Gigi Edgley, Ben Browder spares no hyperbole. She is, says the show's leading man, utterly insane and utterly brave. She will, he is quick to add, do anything and do it all-out.
"Oh my God," Edgley shrieks when she informed of Browder's words. "I'm not that kind of girl at all! But I've been dreaming of such a luscious job for such a long time and, really, I'm only a year out of University. So when I got a chance to play on a set with this amazing cast, with these incredible creatures and the make-up, and with the time and the effort that goes into everything. I just went, 'Oh my goodness, this isn't any sort of naturalistic thing. This is four balls, so let's play!' Even in my audition I just went crazy. And it's worked out very well."
The audition came just as the insecurities of an acting career were beginning to undermine the natural energy which spills over into Edgley's unpredictable onscreen persona. Despite credits including the Australian TV series Water Rats and Day of the Roses the young actress had yet to win a break-out role.
"I'd been in Sydney for four or five months, living off of nothing," Edgley recalls. "I'd done a couple of guesties on a couple of Australian shows and I thought, 'Oh God, is this what it's meant to be? I'm living by my heart. I'm working my ass off. What's happening?' And then all of a sudden I got this scene under my door for an audition. It said Farscape. It has this explanation of this alien whose mantra is 'Survival'. She's been in the hell-holes. She's very mercurial. I thought, 'This sounds great.' So I got ready for this audition scene and I'd never experienced a more challenging audition in my life. It had every kind of emotion in there that you could possibly imagine."
Being an alien
"I wandered into the audition about three days later and thought, 'I'm going to get this. I've got to get this. This part is fantastic.' So I put the nose ring in. I spiked up all the hair and said, 'Yeah, I'm an alien! I'm an alien!' And when I got there there were all these other girls looking very conservative. [Director] Andrew Prowse was there to greet me and I'm sure, when I walk into the room, he thought, 'Oh God, what have we got here? This is interesting.' I played around with him for about three-quarters of an hour and then wandered off into the Sydney life. Then, after about three months of recalls and make-up tests and optometrist fittings for the contacts, I still didn't know if I'd gotten the role. I was a nervous wreck for the whole time. Finally, my agent said, 'Look, if you don't tell her she's got the part, she's not coming in tomorrow for the next make-up test.' And they said, 'Oh, yes, she's got it. Didn't anyone tell her?' So that's how it all happened."
Well, not quite. When she started work on her first episode, Durka Returns, Edgley thought that Chiana was yet another guestie, a one-shot deal. There was 'a hint,' that the character might reappear, but no one uttered those words specifically, and there was a moment it seemed the part might be over before it even started. On her first day at the studio, Edgley spent nearly five hours in a make-up chair, and then say in her room, rehearsing her lines, until someone knocked on her door....
"They said, 'OK, Gigi, thank you very much. You can wrap now,'" she remembers. "I said, 'Ah, but I haven't been on set yet.' They said, 'That's fine. Just go to the make-up room and they'll wrap you.' I thought, 'Oh my God, what have I done? I hope I haven't offended anyone.' They said, 'Oh no, no, it's just that the set you were going to work on today was blown up and we won't be able to use you until next week.' I just went, 'Oh, thank God. Oh, I mean I'm really sorry. I'm just glad that I didn't do anything wrong.' That's when I knew I was working on a Sci-Fi show!
"I went back to my room and, staying in costume, I played with the movements and the voice. I looked in a mirror that they had in the room and practiced a few simple head and breath movements. If I'd gone on set that first day, Chiana wouldn't have been nearly so emotionally charged or so alien as I made her a week after when the actual scene was shot. I'd had time to find all of those elements."
As production on Durka Returns neared its end, Edgley learned that she'd be back for more. However, that route to steady work was a tortured as her realization that she'd won the role of Chiana. "They were handing out pages for the next episode [Through the Looking Glass] and when I looked at them, I saw that Chiana was in one of the scenes," Edgley notes. "I thought, 'I didn't know she was in two episodes. That's kind of nice.' After that, they called me up to the office. [Executive producer] David Kemper had a chat with me. It wasn't an official 'you're in for good' chat. It was more, 'Look, we love your work. You're really good for the show, but we are still going to play with you.' It wasn't until wrap drinks after Season One that David turned around to me and said, 'You know that bullet that just skimmed your arm in Episode 16? Well, that was meant to get you.' I said, 'What do you mean? Was I supposed to be dead?' He said, 'Yes, dead.' I said, 'So is this an official invitation?' And he said, 'Yeah, I guess it is.' So that's how I was officially told: 'You're lucky you're not laying on the maintenance bay floor.'"
A prominent role in the build-up to the first season finale Family Ties has been followed by central parts in second season episodes including Taking the Stone (where Chiana goes off the wall after the loss of her brother Nerri) and Union [sic.] (in which she and Rygel must defend Zhaan against murder charges on a planet inhabited mostly by lawyers), and Edgley now thinks she's got a handle on the character. "She's a little spirit who just wants to play. I think she's always out on the hunt for adventure and the adrenalin rush. She's the only one running away from home. Everyone else is sort of trying to find his or her way back home. Chiana is along for the ride, and she wants as many challenges as possible. When everybody on Moya is saying, 'No, no,' she's saying 'Yes! Yes!'"
"I think the crew is starting to trust her and to like her. She's becoming more mature and a lot more connected with the crew. But, in another sense, after you start thinking, 'Ah, she's one of the gang,' she'll turn around and do something very shoddy. And you'll think, 'What happened there?' She still surprises me. You think she's getting a heart, and then the writers will throw in some twist that makes me think, 'Oh, this is interesting. So we're going back to the old Chiana.' So she's still out for herself. Se's still a very sexual being, which is so strange for me because -- don't tell anyone -- but I've always been cast as the girl next door, as the very young and sweet and virginal character.
"I'd also like to see how nasty she can be and why she can be so nasty. So to get a character like Chiana, where you can just play and muck around, is fantastic. It's scary, but it's great. It's strange to meet an extra five minutes before we start shooting and say, 'Hi. OK, I'll be walking in, putting my hand on your crotch and then I'll probably kiss you like this and wander off. Is that OK with you?"
So it is that Edgley has a steady gig on a show she loves. And if she needed more proof that she's made her mark, toy stores are soon to be lined with Chiana action figures. "Oh my God!" she screams, as the conversation comes to an end. "Isn't it every little girl's dream to sit in a room and play with herself? Oops!"
Chiana would be proud.