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sg1 poke

Operetic Qualities Needed in Science Fiction Acting?

I just read a neat interview over at Le Delium

In the interview with Greg Andersen who plays the nasty Prior that harrasses Vala and Daniel in Powers That Be he said something very interesting about the nature of acting in science fiction:

"LE DELIRIUM : I wanted to know which are the best qualities to be a actor of Sci-Fi?
GREG ANDERSON : That is an interesting question. I was discussing this last week with some actors, do you go to opera? Or have you gone to opera?

LE DELIRIUM : No I don’t sorry. I prefer watching plays.
GREG ANDERSON : ahh...well it is interesting, as I think all good Science Fiction and actors of Science Fiction, have an Operatic quailty about it and them, and the actors that I have met.....these guys and girls are smart! I am the dumb one of the bunch.

LE DELIRIUM : Then you think opera is interesting for Sci-Fi acting.
GREG ANDERSON : There is an inherent theatrical essence in sci-fi actors which makes them capable of playing "the truth" in unbelieveable circumstances."



Do you think that the actors we gravitate to--who resonate for us, aka Ben Browder, Claudia Black, Michael Shanks, and all the others in BSG and SGA whose names I can't recall have operetic qualities. I know they are smart, but is it their ability to tap strong emotions that provides them with the ability to pretend to be normal in abnormal situations?

Comments

One thing that's struck me about Farscape is how much is fits the term "space opera," because it has this melodramatic (in the literal, not scornful sense of the word), larger-than-life quality. And I think that theatrical acting involves projecting oneself strongly, which is useful in sci fi in that the characters have to be really strong to work with their fantastical surroundings rather than being overwhelmed by them. But I think to some extent it depends on the show--I don't get the same sense from Battlestar Galactica, where the focus is kept so strongly on the level of interpersonal relationships, a much more human scale, or Stargate, which comes across to me as really low-key. It's interesting to ponder, though.
See, and I see the interpersonal relationship part of things as where science fiction can shine because the bizarre surroundings will make the humanity of the characters more intense. It takes a person trained in make believe (theater) to sustain the character through all the special affects. So I do see Jamie Bomber and Co. as also acting larger than life. The characters they play have so much more at stake than we do .

Now Stargate is an interesting question of whether the actors require the ability to play large emotions. Yes it is low key, but again the surroundings are so fantastical that in order to make us believe in these people, the actors have to be able to imagine really well. I think Ben and Claudia fit so well into the team (as do Beau Bridges and Louis Gossett) because they are able to play with their characters in their heads.
Now Stargate is an interesting question of whether the actors require the ability to play large emotions. Yes it is low key, but again the surroundings are so fantastical that in order to make us believe in these people, the actors have to be able to imagine really well.

I think Stargate is an interesting case because--and this is just my perception--while it deals with fantastical situations, it's incredibly grounded in the mundane. Everything revolves around the military institution that the characters are part of, and there's a lot of structure to their lives--and therefore to the show. It gives the events a specific and identifiable pattern. And the characters' emotions and evolution tends to be incredibly low key. That's not to knock the actors at all, but I just don't see the larger emotions, at least not in the earlier episodes I've been watching. And I think one of the things that's so striking about Vala is the way she's not like the rest of the show, and like the characters have been historically--she's larger in life and it really stands out. Mitchell's more Crichtonesque moments strike me the same way--they're remarkable because they're different from the show's normal tone.

Then again, I've been watching early seasons, and my perception of the show is deeply colored by that. It may have changed later on.
And I think one of the things that's so striking about Vala is the way she's not like the rest of the show, and like the characters have been historically--she's larger in life and it really stands out. Mitchell's more Crichtonesque moments strike me the same way--they're remarkable because they're different from the show's normal tone.

You are right about early eps being low key--RDA although snarky is very low key in his emotions and yet when things do get excited they can play "over the top". I am thinking of an ep where RDA as O'Neill gets speared through the shoulder with this alien thing that infects SGC. I like that ep for its character pieces as well as the adventure. Michael Shanks gets the emotional arcs (did I just say arcs?).

I'm watching early eps of Stargate Atlantis at the moment and enjoying McKay and Bennett (the scottish doctor) for their fun personalities.

But I still think of Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner as the epitome of science fiction actors from their ability to make believe and really play these larger than life characters for real.
ah, that is *very* interesting. and it makes a certain amount of sense. i think that the capacity to be able to suspend disbelief, and to imagine the surreal may be part of that? i've always thought it takes a certain cognitive plasticity to enjoy scifi and fantasy. although i imagine that it exists on a continuum as do so many of these things.

it's part of how rygel becomes a dominar and a companion for the actors and the audience, rather than just a puppet?

Could it be that when actors (character actors not Stars although I can see the likes of Paul Newman and Mel Gibson being able to do this) suspend disblief by touching the puppets they begin to almost believe in the reality of Rygel. Claudia has been heard to say "Dude, you're foaming at the mouth. You're just a pupppet but you are foaming!" That playful quality is inherent in a lot of theater and movie stars who haven't training in sustaining disbelief (as you say) probably won't play with inannimate objects like Rygel and Pilot.
exactly! and it makes sense that they would be as mesmerized by the characters they spend the day with as we are. and perhaps it takes an inherent capacity not to take oneself too seriously. and as you said, the ability to *play*. thankfully there are those who act and write, and are able to step into the universe of the imagination. *g*
You can also see this "not take selves too seriously" in real life. These actors know the difference between acting and life and stay "real". I love watching and listening to them because they are fun and funny. That ability not to let fame or fortune go to their heads keeps them grounded and able to have fun with their work as well. They know nothing lasts.
yes! staying real, especially given the degree of unreality they experience. er, or perhaps i should say the surreal that they encounter? ;)

and you're right, nothing lasts...except reruns and dvds. and great fanfic of course. *bg*
Oh yeah, I also like the very humble quote from the Prior guy that it takes people with brains to act in science fiction genre. I assume it is because there is so much green screen work that half the job of acting is knowing where the thing is you are reacting to. I think these actors are very smart.