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Burbank 2002: Lani Tupu Interview
Conducted on 23rd November 2002

At the Official Farscape Convention in Burbank CA on the 23rd November, Dani and Mary had the privilege of interviewing Lani Tupu, who played Crais and also voiced Pilot, face-to-face. We had previously, at fairly short notice, asked for questions to be sent in. Due to time constraints, and the nature of a "live" interview, we took the topics we thought were best, and tried to cover them as much as possible. So you want to know more about Mr. Tupu? Read on!

FSW: We know you've been asked a million times about your different voices for Crais and Pilot, but ... well ... people are still curious! How did the voices for Crais and Pilot come about?

Lani: I don't know actually how it came about. I mean it's just a lower register, and Pilot's at a higher register, and they used to put a filter on it. But I played it originally like they wanted me to play, which was like a harassed accountant. So I eventually found the voice for Pilot.

FSW: I understand that you don't do Crais and Pilot on the same day.

Lani: That's right, I don't do them on the same day because when I was doing a lot of work for Crais, if I had to scream at all, my voice would go down to drop a couple of notes, so I had to do Pilot's first. I'll buy a script tomorrow that has Pilot's and show you up on stage. {And indeed, Lani did do a bit of Pilot up on stage the next day. No digital enhancements, no wires, nothing up his sleeve...}

FSW: What was the most physically and emotionally challenging scene to do for Pilot, since all you really had to work on was the voice?

Lani: When I'm in the studio I'm very physical with Pilot, in order to get to Pilot I've got to be very animated.

FSW: So Pilot's still a very physical role for you?

Lani: Yes. Especially if I have to scream.

FSW: We saw you jamming away at the concert last night... {Number 96, headed by Anthony Simcoe and with Wayne Pygram on drums}

Lani: Oh yeah. I love music anyway.

FSW: Do you play anything?

Lani: Guitar and piano.

FSW: How about joining Anthony's band?

Lani: Ah, no. They've got a good thing going.

FSW: They were very good though.

Lani: Yeah, I hadn't heard them play. They had a couple of performances [private] back in Australia but I didn't get to see them, so it was a great pleasure to see them last night.

FSW: Tell us a bit about the movie you did, Lantana.

Lani: Have you seen it?

FSW: No. We were told a couple of nights ago about some movie you were in and that we should ask you about it.

Lani: Yeah. There was a read for the role, I went in on a Saturday and the whole crew were there, and this was just a reading. Anthony LaPaglia [plays Leon in the movie] was there, who works a lot in America now, and I was actually reading, as it turns out, for Geoffrey Rush [plays John in the movie] who wasn't able to be there, I didn't know this till later on, and so I read the role. Then my agent said "there's no role for you in the film", but there was one role that I put my hand up for, it's only a small cameo, and I said if nobody had it, I could do it. There was concern about my hair at the time, but the director came back and said "don't worry about it, we can use you for the role". So it worked out really well, and it turned out to win eight awards, including Best Film of the Year in Australia, which is the equivalent of winning an Oscar in America, and then it came to America to pretty decent critical acclaim. It was fun though. The director, Ray Lawrence, had fifteen years prior made a film called Bliss that picked up seven awards, and Lantana was the second film in fifteen years he'd made.

FSW: Which do you prefer to play, good guys or bad guys?

Lani: {Big smile from Lani} Bad guys they're much more fun! Good guys get stitched up all the time!

FSW: Is it better to play a multi-layered character like Crais though who is good, bad, in-between all the time?

Lani: Well I knew that he was going to... I didn't want to make him a one-dimensional character. I think the writers picked up on that, because when you're given a script, it's your interpretation of it really, and then there is the marriage of the writer seeing what you do and then they go back and write more and so the character becomes multi-layered.

FSW: We understand you get to do a lot of that on Farscape.

Lani: Yes, that's one of the positives about Farscape.

FSW: Did they know from the beginning that Crais was going to become an ambiguous character or did you kind of play it by ear?

Lani: No, we ran with it. They pushed me further and further and I took it on and gave it my own spin.

FSW: Along those lines, something that always gets asked to female actors is "How does it feel to play a strong woman," as if it's such an exception for women to be strong. So we wondered...

Lani: {Grinning} How does it feel for me to play a strong woman?

FSW: Well, that too, but moreover, how does it feel to play a strong man?

Lani: {Still grinning, but turns it into a serious answer} Well it's great, you know, because you really have to drive the character, and you always have to give a character an action to do, a whole story arc. Where he's either searching for something, or... yeah, searching for something's a really good one as a kind of coat hanger to. But then you're always pushing the character forward; if not then the audience gets really bored because there's no internal actions.

FSW: Yeah, you can kind of see that there's more you know, and the writers know that the audience has yet to learn.

Lani: That's right.

Mary: I'm being a first year student film-maker here too, thinking "This is what I need to tell my actors".

Lani: Yeah, just give them a reason for being there. The audience doesn't need to know what it is, but the actor does. The character doesn't need to know. You know as the actor what you need to do to drive the character forward, but the character doesn't necessarily need to know. The character is in an environment where they're trying to work something out, trying to get to some point, find somebody.

FSW: We understand that you like to paint?

Lani: When I get time to paint, I like doing oil painting. It just gives you time out on your own. If you're an actor you're always working in a creative environment, with a whole lot of other people, so doing your own stuff, or creating your own music, is good because it gives you another creative outlet.

FSW: We also know that you've done teaching.

Lani: Yes, I teach camera work, I teach actors the ins and outs, though I haven't been able to do that since I've been on Farscape.

FSW: Has Farscape influenced your teaching?

Lani: Everything's influenced it. I've been working on other stuff in between Farscape as well. I've been in constant work [for a year?] and I'm not doing that [on a whim?], I'm doing it because it's work.

FSW: Are there any off the wall, annoying things fans do?

Lani: {Grins and looks like he's struggling for a diplomatic answer to that one} What's the most annoying thing fans do? Um... I remember having to sign somebody...

FSW: How scary is it doing a convention like this?

Lani: On the whole most fans are fine with it, but you get the odd occasional one that wants to squeeze the life out of you, but on the whole pretty good. You get the ones that are pretty obsessive.

FSW: And what are you doing now?

Lani: I'm going back to work on a picture in January, I'm not too sure what it's called. But I'll have the website up and running soon, it's under construction at the moment. Which is kind of good, because they find out things about the stuff that I've done that I've forgot about. And also the episode number, so that's great. So keep an eye on that.

FSW: And a weird off-the-wall question we thought was funny. What's the best seafood dish could you make out of Pilot?

Lani: {Laughs}

FSW: Red wine or white?

Lani: White.

[Everyone laughs]

Lani: Lobster clam-bake, if you'd like that.

FSW: Thank you so much for your time.



SPECIAL THANKS...

First, thank you to Lani Tupu for being gracious enough to let us interview him, especially given the time constraints. We would also like to send out a huge thank you and hug to Lani's Assistant Jean Orrico for all her help in putting this together under such extrenuous circumstances and especially short notice. We'd also like to thank her for her patience during the delays we had in posting this.

We'd like to thank everyone who took their time in sending in questions, in particular the following people whose question topics were used. In no particular order:

Susan Hudson, Debra Dye, Emma Murphy, Pilotslover, Bob Grist, Christine Tolentino, LJinx, Dreara, Ruth B, Zetelmaier, Karl Fordham, PKTechDude.

If we missed you, and you sent in a question similar to one that was asked, please e-mail me to be added.

Don't forget, you can discuss this interview on our forums. If you have any questions about it, feel free to ask them there! Click here to go to the forums.


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