Interview from CultTimes May, 2001

by David Bassom

LENI PARKER still can't believe the apparent finality of it all. A few weeks have now passed since the bubbly Canadian actress finished shooting 'Point of No Return', the fourth season finale of Earth: Final Conflict, but Parker remains stunned by its cataclysmic plotline and cliff hanging conclusion. The episode revolves around the ultimate, encounter between the Taelons and the Jaridians, and seems to herald the Sci-Fi drama series' biggest and boldest revamp yet. Even more surprisingly, though, Parker also believes that 'Point of No Return' could well represent the end of her androgynous Taelon alter ego, Da'an, and his mission on Earth.

"The cliff-hanger this year is really good," explains Parker, as she relaxes at her home in Toronto. "Honestly, none of us can figure out how they're going to get out of this one. Personally, I'm just shocked by it."

"Last time when we did the cliff-hanger [Arrival], I thought, 'OK, I'm dead'. Of course, after that Da'an came back. But this time it seems really final. People actually die in front of you in this episode. And I have no idea how they're going to take things from there."

While Parker is the first to admit that anything is possible (especially after her character's 'resurrection' at the start of Season Four), she seems fairly convinced that in the wake of 'Point of No Return', Da'an will not be a regular character in Earth: Final Conflict's upcoming fifth season. Come this May, when the new season begins shooting in Toronto, Parker suspects that her Taelon counterpart will, at best, appear in just a handful of episodes. Fortunately, this controversial prospect doesn't alarm Parker in the slightest.

"I feel pretty good about it," she reveals. "The important thing is that I've done pretty much everything I could do with Da'an. I don't honestly know what I could do with him in the fifth season. I feel that I've done everything I wanted to do, and Season Four was great for that. So if it does all end here, Point of No Return is a great send-off.

"Playing a Taelon is also very difficult on myself and Anita [La Selva, Zo'or] physically," she adds, referring to the daily three-hour process which transforms them into Taelons. "The make-up and costume has been hard on our faces and my back and stuff. So I won't miss that side of it all!"

Regardless of whether it really represents the end of Da'an's weekly exploits on Earth, Point of No Return certainly does conclude an intriguing year for the noble Taelon Companion. As Sky 1 viewers are currently discovering. Season Four sheds more light on Da'an's plans for humanity, the Taelons and the Jaridians. It also makes several revelations about the noble Companion, the most surprising of which is Da'an's exposure as a secret addict to the Taelon 'drug', kryss.

"It was an interesting year for my character," notes Parker. "Some people have said it's Da'an's comeback year. I've been more engaged in the show. This season, [head writer/story editor] George Geiger rose to the challenge and created some terrific stuff for Da'an. I think in terms of the past three seasons, it was my best season, although Season One always stands up as the very best season in terms of writing for the character."

"Da'an got to do a lot of exciting things this year, and we discovered a lot about him. The kryss addiction was great because it cleaned the slate for all those unanswered questions from earlier on in the show. It sort of justifies some of Da'an's seesaw kind of behaviour. I also really enjoyed Da'an's attempted Joining [with a Jaridian] in 'The Summit' and showing Da'an dealing with human emotions in 'Essence'.

"We got to explore Da'an's relationships with the other characters a bit more this season," she continues. "I still got to play the parent-child relationship with Zo'or, which has always been great. Da'an's relationship with Liam has also continued to take a lot of twists and turns, although there's always been a strong connection between those two characters. I got to interact more with Renee this year, which was nice, and I also worked with Federov, which was great because that actor [Garwin Sanford] is a lot of fun. I'm quite happy with Season Four really."

Parker lists 'Limbo', 'Dark Matter', 'The Summit', 'Essence' and 'Epiphany' as her personal episodic highlights of Season Four. Given her obvious satisfaction with Da'an's role in Season Four, it's ironic to recall that Earth: Final Conflict's producers originally launched the season promising to place greater emphasis on the show's human characters at the expense of their Taelons counterparts."

"Our roles were reduced, particularly at the start of the season," confirms Parker. "Zo'or had a lot less to do this season than last season. I had less to do; I wasn't in about four or five episodes this year. But then the ones I was in, I was either the subplot or featured character, so I felt that I was very much part of the season."

"It is funny, though, because Earth: Final Conflict is a show about aliens. The title sequence says, 'Three years ago, they came'. Who did? Me and Zo'or basically. When the Taelons aren't in the show, it's like - 'Where is the conflict?'"

"When I watch the show it's for the Taelons," she admits. "Frankly, a lot of people watch it for the Taelons. That's what makes it exciting TV."

Da'an's role in Earth: Final Conflict has taken a lot of unexpected - perhaps even inexplicable turns since the show's acclaimed debut in October 1997, when the series was largely driven by the Taelon Companion's mysterious activities and his relationship with his original human protector, William Boone (Kevin Kilner). In light of the show's three radical revamps, Parker finds it difficult to judge whether the Gene Roddenberry-inspired alien saga has fulfilled its initial promise.

"It took such a turn in the second season that you never know what it would have been if Kevin had stayed," she explains. "The show now is completely different from how we probably imagined it to be from the first season. We thought we'd have these big long philosophical talks and you wouldn't find out who the Taelons were till Season Three."

Obviously, they sort of laid everything out in Season Two, and created a lot of other subplots to divert that.

"Who knows? I think it's certainly gone through a lot of hoops and maintained some semblance of what we tried to do first season."

If she did it all again, Parker says that she would insist on having more input into her character's development, and would oppose some of the ways in which Da'an's depiction was changed after Season One. Ultimately, however, she has no regrets about her four-year stint with Alliance Atlantis' SF series, and makes it clear that she has thoroughly enjoyed her time on Earth.

"It's opened a lot of doors for me," she says "It's taught me a lot about working in front of a camera, and what TV does to a viewer also have a lot of terrific people in my life now because of Earth. The cast and crew are such a lovely bunch of people, honestly, and the fans have just been a delight too. It's been an amazing experience really."

Since completing work on Season Four, Parker has been pursuing several new stage and screen projects. She is continuing to develop her fledgling theatre group, the wonderfully titled Your Theater Company, and is hoping to star in a new play entitled Shakespeare's Daughters this summer. Parker is also on the lookout for new screen roles, preferably as "normal, human characters."

Despite her current job hunt, Parker isn't ruling out a return to Earth in the coming year. Should the call come, she would be happy to complete her five-year contract and reprise the role of Da'an. Alternatively, she'd love to play a new character in the series, especially if it was a human role.

"That would be so fabulous," she gushes." What a dream that would be! I'd like to be a scientist or a doctor."

Parker, however, is less than keen on the idea of reprising her uncredited role as 'The Babe in the Bar' whom she played (albeit extremely briefly) in the third season episode Deja Vu. "The Babe in the Bar really didn't cut it for me!" she laughs. "That was really strange. I went from tons of make-up as an alien to tons of make-up as a hooker! It was all hair extensions and push-up bras. I'd prefer to go for something more minimalistic. Fifteen minutes of make-up would be great."

Although it remains to be seen what the future holds for Da'an, it's clear that the character has already made his mark on Sci-Fi TV history. Thanks primarily to Leni Parker's startling portrayal of the character; the Taelon Companion remains one of the most ethereal, noble and enigmatic aliens to ever hit the small screen. Ironically, though, the secret of Da'an's success is something of a mystery even to his human counterpart.

"It's a weird thing for me," she admits. "I still can't quite figure out why the character works and still has life after all the changes he went through. But I think it must have something to do with the fact that something so foreign, something so alien, could be so compassionate and trusting. Da'an bridges that gap into the unknown. The character pulls a bit at everyone's compassionate side and their emotional side. He quells some of the fear of an alien species or otherworldly things out there, and brings us closer to understanding what is foreign to us.

"I think in everyday life, it's a good lesson," she declares. "Whenever you encounter something that's a little different from you there is always the fear of the unknown and ignorance to a certain extent. But Da'an in a way shows you can bridge that."

FINAL WORDS

EARTH: FINAL CONFLICT's fourth season finale 'Point of No Return', features what could be Da'an's final exchange with his Companion Protector, Liam Kincaid (Robert Leeshock). Ironically, however, Parker had to shoot her 'farewell' scene without her co-star!

"Unfortunately, they ran out of time with me on the last day of shooting, so I didn't get to play my last farewells," reveals Parker. "I actually had to come in for second unit [filming] and play the scene to an 'x' on the wall. So when you see that scene, I'm not actually there with Liam and Vorjak. They'll cut it as if we were together, but we shot our bits separately. So when I said farewell to Liam Kincaid, he was actually an 'x' on a grip stand!"

A few days after she missed out on shooting her farewell scene with Leeshock, Parker was also robbed of saying goodbye to her cast and crewmates. "I missed my wrap party," she sighs. "My back went out and I was sick with a cold, and I just couldn't go. So I never got to say goodbye to everybody. Robert said the wrap party was very low-key and they missed me. They missed my drunken shenanigans, I guess! So right now, it sort of feels like it's finished, but I wasn't part of the end of it all."