Interview with Gigi Edgley
I had the pleasure of interviewing Gigi Edgley, who’s best known to science fiction fans as Chiana from Farscape. She has been seen in many starring roles on Australian television including The Secret Life of Us and Rescue: Special Ops. We’ll see her soon in the new Screentime production Tricky Business on Channel 9.
Gigi is excited to be a Special Guest at the first Oz Comic-Con in Adelaide, on March 31 and April 1 2012.
Mark Gamtcheff: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me today. Are you taking a break from shooting Tricky Business right now?
Gigi Edgley: No, I’m about to jump on a plane. I’m going down to Melbourne to meet my fiancé because he’s a world champion unicyclist and they have the National Unicycling Competition. He taught me how to unicycle so it’s my second one that I’m competing in. I just do the really simple races and he does all the really – the tricky stuff.
Yeah, so my sister was laughing. She was like, “What’s with you two,” because I said, “Babe, you know, I’m thinking maybe I could just stay in Sydney for the weekend and do a bit of study on my script.” And he was, like, “But it’s going to be so much fun, getting on a plane and riding round on one wheel all weekend and then getting back on a plane for a 6.00am start.” You do crazy things for love. I tell you now.
Mark Gamtcheff: But you obviously enjoy it…
Gigi Edgley: Yeah, definitely and it’s really good exercise and it’s really fantastic to learn something at a later age, too. When he said, “I’ll get you unicycling,” I’m like, “I highly doubt that.” And then day after day after day he motivates me by going to the coffee shop, because I love coffee.
So we’d wake up and he’d say, “Do you want to go get a cappuccino?” and I’m like, “Yes.” And he goes, “All right, we’ll unicycle up.” I’m like, “Err.” So he’d hold my hand and we’d go, like, just slow and steady for month after month after month and then one day I just took off. And now I’m free riding and we go on big unicycle rides almost every day, every second day, with our dog, MacGyver.
Because Jamie’s American so he idolises MacGyver, the television show, and wanted to call our first child that, so I said, “How about we get a dog?” So we had MacGyver, the dog, and we’d go on our big unicycle rides and it’s a nice way to keep fit and also, you know, share some sunrises with each other.
Mark Gamtcheff: I’d like to hear a bit about your time working on Farscape, but, although I did see early episodes of the show, I’m not what you’d call a huge fan.
Gigi Edgley: What?!
Mark Gamtcheff: I know. But you can talk to me as if I am because lots of our readers will be huge fans, no doubt.
Gigi Edgley: I can tell you anything.
Mark Gamtcheff: You can.
Gigi Edgley: Well, the episode that Spielberg directed was my favourite. It was a really awesome show. It was pretty much my my first long-running television series and I was just a baby. I was 22, 23 and I got cast as this awesome alien. She was just the most amazing – divine look – three and a half hours of makeup every day. And I was only meant to be on for one episode and they liked the look and the style and the vibe of the character so she ended up sticking around for four and half years. It was brilliant because it was a Jim Henson show and I am so in love with the Jim Henson Company and Dark Crystal and Labyrinth and… their creatures. So I don’t know, I’m probably a lot more in love with the phantasmagorical world as opposed to the sci-fi world, but I’m not allowed to say that at conventions. I’ll get thrown off the stage into the Klingons.
But yes, it really did open up my eyes to the sci-fi world because one thing that I really adore about it is that you actually get to meet the people that support your dream. I’ve worked on lots of different television shows from Stingers and Secret Life of Us, to films in the States and everything and there is no other production style that offers you the chance to go to conventions and actually meet people and hear the feedback.
Some of the stories, you get blown away because you think you’re just rocking up on set and telling a great story and having a lot of fun at the same time and it’s the best job in the whole wide world. But when a fan comes up to you and has been waiting, you know, a day in a line to see you just to say hello and shake your hand and they’re shaking and teary and saying, “You inspired me to get through a really hard time in my life,” or – you know, you hear these amazing stories along the way – it’s like, wow, this is really quite a special exchange. So, yeah, I adore the conventions. And when I was living in the States they pretty much were my bread and butter for three or four years. I’ve been flown all around the States and to Europe and everywhere really, to have these amazing weekends in fantastic places with people that just adore what I adore. Yeah. Adelaide, watch out.
Mark Gamtcheff: Yeah. People are pretty excited about Oz Comic-Con starting here in Adelaide. There are heaps of people just wetting themselves with excitement.
Gigi Edgley: Great!
Mark Gamtcheff: So I think it’s going to be really good. It is funny how sci-fi and fantasy, they’re not about reality, but they seem to have a big impact on people’s real lives. It’s a funny thing, isn’t it?
Gigi Edgley: Yeah, I think it’s really intriguing because the thing is we think we’ve got it all sorted and we think we know exactly what’s going on but none of us have any idea. We’re stuck on a rock in the middle of nowhere following this weird set of rules that someone somewhere somehow created and we think it’s all sorted. No wonder we’re in love with fantasy and no wonder we’re in love with what lies beyond the clouds and if there are spirits that walk the earth because I’m quite certain that there are, and they do. I think that it’s really beautiful, too, when you go on these (convention) weekends, and you see people that are so positive about it as well. With all the negativity and weird stuff going down in the world and nonsense politics and war and all that ridiculous side of reality, you go to these conventions and people are so in love with telling a brilliant story.
It’s cool because sci-fi and fantasy seem to be allowed to approach taboo topics that CSI can’t approach, people being bad because they’re humans, but if you put them in The Uncharted Territories, you can really stir things up. So that’s always really a very intriguing thing to watch as well.
Mark Gamtcheff: I’ve just heard that Ben Browder’s (from Farscape) is coming to Adelaide as well. Do you know about that?
Gigi Edgley: Is he? That’ll be good to see him. I haven’t seen him for…
Mark Gamtcheff: So I gather you and he and all the cast got along really well on Farscape, and that was a big part of why you enjoyed it so much.
Gigi Edgley: Yeah. It was a very special family because – there’s so many elements; because the hours were so incredibly long and the make-up’s so intense, you literally lived, breathed, cried, everything that show, ate that show. It was just so intense and the family was very, very tight, which is great because when you’re tired and exhausted and you’re being worked to the bone, then you get some really fantastic organic work coming out. And people were really daring and weren’t afraid to push each other’s buttons and that’s when you get the real chemistry on set that sort of bubbles and it’s so good to watch.
It’s a funny thing making films and television because you live these different realities with people and then it’s a wrap and off you go and then you go and work on your next project, or you don’t or you do or you travel the world. And then 10 years down the track you can be playing their son or playing that they’re your father. You know what I mean? It’s quite trippy how you all reconnect. And it’s really cool, too, because there’s not many long-running shows that I’ve worked on. It was fantastic because the crew – everyone is just one massive family and the show that I’m working on at the moment, there’s quite a few people that worked on Farscape, and we just sit and we reminisce and go, “Wasn’t that amazing” and “How cool is The Henson Company?” It is very beautiful when you reconnect with familiar faces that you’ve shared such an amazing experience with.
Mark Gamtcheff: So with Rescue Special Ops and the new show you’re working on, Tricky Business, are you getting the same camaraderie between the cast members or is it a bit different?
Gigi Edgley: A hundred per cent. It just comes in a bit of a different form because I’m a lot older and also because it’s a very different style of show. I think in today’s day and age anyone that has a job should think themselves extremely lucky, let alone a job on a television show, let alone a job on an amazing television show. And both Rescue and Tricky are absolutely that. I went to the States – after Farscape I did Secret Life and then Stingers and then that film Last Train to Freo and then the Peacekeeper Wars happened so I went back and did that. I kind of got to this stage where I wasn’t – auditions were coming in for shows that were very soap opera orientated and I just didn’t want to do that. I get that people dig that and I’m totally cool with that but that’s not the story I want to tell, you know? I want to be scared and I want to be challenged. I want to wake up every morning going, “I’m learning something, or I’m teaching something.”
So when I moved to the States it even got to the point I wrote and directed my own little film because of the writer’s strike and I shot a couple of sci-fi features. It was quite funny because I was in the States for hardly a month and I was offered my first feature film. And I’ve thought, “What a load of nonsense. Everyone says this is hard. What are they talking about?” Then I got flown to the film and it was shot in St Louis and it was a very, very sci-fi, that kind of vibe, and I was like ‘maybe I haven’t quite made it.’ But it was great and it’s still lots of fun.
Mark Gamtcheff: So which one was that?
Gigi Edgley: Well, it’s had several reincarnations – it was called Show Down at Area 51 and it’s also called Judgment Day.
Mark Gamtcheff: Yeah, I’ve seen the trailer.
Gigi Edgley: Yeah, it’s special. It’s very special. But it’s great because, you know, that’s the thing with sci-fi, too. You’ve got to pay the bills. You’ve got to be in love with the stories that you’re telling. And I thought, “Well, at least I’m in the States.” And it was a half-decent script and then I kind of got to the location and realised that it wasn’t going to be shot in the Warner Brothers studios in Hollywood but instead in St Louis in warehouses in the middle of nowhere. I went, “Okay,” but it was still a great experience. And I worked with Coby Bell from Third Watch and Jason London and actors that I’ve always admired and respected, so that was a heap of fun.
So I did all that and then wrote and directed my own film, which is just a short film which is sort of based on Farscape days. Then my beautiful boy – I turned around and I said, “Babe, I’ve run out of money. I’m going to have to go back to Australia because I think I can score a gig back there. I’d feel a lot more confident,” because I’ve got a bit of a name down under as opposed to LA where you’re just thrown into the mix of things. And he goes, “Look, you don’t want to go back. Why would you ever do that?” And I said, “I literally can’t put – I don’t have anything to eat. I can’t afford to eat.” And he goes, “Well, you can come with me and you can be in my show,” because he’s a street performer. I said, “Babe, you barely make enough to cover your own groceries.” And he’s like, “We’ll figure it out. Don’t worry, we’ll figure it out.” So for a year we would street perform with each other and it was the most amazing experience we’ve ever had in our lives.
It was so cool because we literally lived in a walk-in closet. We had not a cent to our names but we were madly, deeply, truly in love and making it pay one way or another. And then good old Rescue Special Ops, the auditions for that popped up and I emailed it through to the agency and stuff and they said, “Look, they’re really keen to see you in the room. Can you stick around Australia for a bit and do that audition?” So a few rounds of that and then Lara Knight became my reality for about – three series that was for. So then at that point, when that finished, I said to Jamie, “Do you want to go back?” because he’s from Minnesota, and he said, “Let’s just stick it out here for a little bit more and see if you can land something here because you’re on a bit of a roll.” So good old Screentime came up with, it was actually called Bad Debts in Wollongong at the time.
Mark Gamtcheff: Sorry?
Gigi Edgley: It was actually called Bad Debts in Wollongong. I went, “That’s a bit of a full-on name.” And I went into read the script and as soon as I picked up the script I went, “Oh, my gosh, I have to get this role. This is amazing.” This character is so cool. She’s so multi-faceted. She’s a mum, she’s a boss, she’s an undercover cop, she’s a mercantile agent, and it’s so clever the way they’ve set it up. I was just hysterical and one moment I was crying and the next moment I was laughing and had goose bumps and the whole shebang. The first audition I went into I was so intent that I was going to get it I completely blew it. I went home and I burst into tears and poor Jamie. I’m like, “I’ve lost it. They’ll never call me.” And he’s like, “Honey, you don’t know that.” I’m like, “Oh no, I know.” And he’s like, “No, if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. You know that. If it’s not this, it’ll be something else.” Pick the drama queen.
Then I also got in the running for the new girl on Pack to the Rafters and once again, as I’ve said, I don’t really watch that kind of stuff. So it was good to be invited to work with Rafters but my heart was still quite in love with Bad Debts in Wollongong even though it’d come and gone. So every day I was manifesting and praying and sending out the affirmations to the universe – God, Zen, Buddha, whatever’s out there – and saying, “Please, if there’s a chance, universe, get me back in that room.” And out of nowhere, literally out of nowhere, my agent called and said, “You’re not going to believe this. Bad Debts in Wollongong want to see you again. What’s all that about?” And they’re asking me. I’m like, “I’ve got no bloody idea. Are you kidding me?”
So this was a time when I went, “All right, kid, you’ve got this. It wouldn’t have come back to you unless you didn’t have a good chance at it so take a deep breath and go in that room and just have a lot of fun.” So we did. And now this television show, I swear to God – I’ve watched episode one and two – it is going to blow Australian audiences away. I’ve never seen anything that is so tight and so clever. It’s got that small town mentality because everyone sort of knows everyone. Half the time when we have to repossess a car or go process serve someone or if we’re doing undercover work, it’s someone you know or it’s the sister’s boyfriend’s brother. So it’s got that kind of quirkiness to it as well, which has a lot of humour.
Mark Gamtcheff: Setting up that sort of conflict’s got to be good. I’ve watched one of those promos where you’re all standing in a line and it sort of goes through each person. I was having trouble working out what the show would be like. It’s very hard from a promo. And obviously the network, wants to draw in a big audience and not pigeonhole it too much. But, yeah, it looks like it’ll be great.
Gigi Edgley: It’ll be interesting to see. All the cast got the promos back and we’re like, “Whoa, what does that even mean?” You’ve got your mum, you’ve got your dad, you’ve got the sexy sister, you’ve got the straight and boring sister, you’ve got the debts and mercantile agents, you’ve got the spunky Lincoln lawyers, you’ve got the bad boy. It’s kind of clever in that it just stirs the pot a bit where people go, “Oh, what’s that all about?” It’s quite interesting. And it looks so beautifully put together. We were all very blown away with the whole style of it and everything. I’m really excited. I can’t wait for you guys to see it. It really has been such an awesome thing for me because, you know, the whole story is just so clever. It could go in any direction.
Pretty much what it’s based on is, it’s a family of mercantile agents and my character got pregnant when she was 17. So instead of travelling the world and instead of backpacking around wherever or going to university, she went to work for the family business. And mum, played by the beautiful Deborah Byrne – she’s a delight to work with – said, “You should get rid of the baby and you should be a big success and you’re very smart and I don’t want you pregnant and living in Wollongong your whole life,” having my character’s best interests at heart. So already there’s that tension. It’s a happy family but there’s a lot of under currents that could go in any direction at any time.
So then my Dad took me under his wing and he taught Kate the tricks of the trade and everything. And you can do nothing wrong in Dad’s eyes, which is played by Shane Bourne. So then sure enough, Dad brings in his protégé, who’s a gentleman called Rick and he works for the business for several years and in the last couple of years Rick and Kate have started dating. My character’s an extremely controlling character because she lost control with the whole pregnancy at 17, she now needs to make sure all the Ts are crossed and the I’s are dotted to the point where it almost is her demise. She’s quite controlling.
So where you find the Tricky Business family is right at the point where Rick is actually being more responsible and he’s about to ask Kate for her hand in marriage. They’ve never spoken about marriage before so it takes Kate by complete surprise. On the side, he’s invested his own money in a ‘get rich quick’ scheme, that goes terribly wrong and the last chunk of money – pretty much, he needs to take the family’s money to pay off his debt. So it’s really fantastic but it’s so cool to watch because we find the debt collectors, the mercantile agents, are now in serious financial disaster themselves. So whilst they’re trying to uphold their name and be professional and continue their business, they’re also trying to save their souls as well. So it’s a very clever idea. It’s a very clever idea. So, yeah, it’s been going well.
Mark Gamtcheff: It sounds great. Just to get back to the sci-fi sort of stuff, just quickly, this new role. Obviously the Farscape role was very physical and Rescue Special Ops as well.
Gigi Edgley: Yes.
Mark Gamtcheff: Is that something you really enjoy… would you want to do more physical work?
Gigi Edgley: I love the more physical side of things. I love stunt work, I love site sequences, I love anything that’s action based. As long as the script… Now I’ve got to the age in life where I’m just really trying to find plot productions that have brilliant scripts, no matter what genre it comes in; whether it’s action based or drama or comedy, I don’t mind. I just want to tell really, good solid stories that excite and enhance people’s experience when they watch the television or go into the movie cinemas.
Mark Gamtcheff: I was looking at your Blue Shift comic and I wondered if you wanted to tell us where that’s at at the moment, where you see that heading. Obviously that’s about telling a story too.
Gigi Edgley: Once again when I was in the States, when I was in between jobs, I’ve got so much energy, I just need to channel it into something, otherwise you just end up running round in circles. So I spoke to a gentleman who runs Emerald City Con, a massive convention in Seattle and he runs a comic book store. Now he’s got several I think. And he said, “What would you think about writing a comic series with me?” And I went, “Fantastic. Let’s do it.” So it’s in the making at the moment and it’s actually based on the little film that I’ve shot called Nobody Knows. That and Blue Shift are actually related to each other.
Blue Shift is about a girl that gets sucked up into space and the adventures that she goes on and the craziness that she encounters. And Nobody Knows is about a girl who’s an actress who plays a girl who got sucked up into space. So we’re trying to create many different levels because I love the David Lynch vibe about things and I love – I’ve noticed through conventions that fans really get into different mediums that all relate with each other.
And so it’s in the final stages because we’ve done the ashcan, but it’s in the final stages. The creator is in Seattle doing it. So we co-wrote it together, Brian Meredith and myself, and then we’ve put the gentleman, which is an artist that Brian knows, who’s been doing pages as we speak. So it’s all hard because it’s on a shoestring budget but we are getting there.
Mark Gamtcheff: I’ll look forward to seeing more of Blue Shift. What I saw on the web looked really good.
Gigi Edgley: So, are you going to be in Adelaide for Oz Comic-Con?
Mark Gamtcheff: Yep, definitely!
Gigi Edgley: Cool! I see you in Adelaide.
Also see our other posts about Oz-Comic-Con in Adelaide:
Great guests for Oz Comic-Con in Adelaide
Oz Comic-Con Wants You Adelaide!
Gigi Edgley says “Watch out Adelaide!” Oz Comic-Con’s coming