Cult Times
January 2000

Loved by Taelons and humans alike, Da'an has more fans than Elvis. So why is actress Leni Parker worried about how viewers will respond to her character as Earth: Final Conflict's third season progresses? David Bassom investigates. . .

"Do not trust Da'an. He will betray you." Bel'lie - Defector

What a difference eight words can make. For most of Earth: Final Conflict's second year, Da'an was clearly the 'good' Taelon: the Taelon who was willing to defy his own people to save Humanity from a fate worse than death. But things took a dramatic turn in the late second season installment 'Defector', when the rogue Taelon Bel'lie denounced Da'an as the architect of the aliens' evil plans for the human race.

While Bel'lie's claims were never verified, his words did cast some serious doubts over Da'an's true motives and intentions. And according to Da'an's real-life alter ego, actress Leni Parker, that sense of doubt is only set to grow during Earth: Final Conflict's third year.

"There's a lot more mystery this season," promises Parker. "What you see is not what you get this year, as opposed to last year. "Da'an was extremely passionate about humanity in season two. Therefore, the ambiguity and mystery of the character was flushed away. I also felt very human last year, in terms of my behavior and dialogue. I had a lot of action to do last year, which I enjoyed doing, but I don't think it was fitting for the character. In a way, it undermined Da'an's grace and dignity.

"So for me, the challenge of this season is to inject those nice elements of ambiguity and mystery back into the character. And it's been really hard, because I realize that I have established a lot of stuff last season that people have gotten used to. But I think, as an actor, I'm back on track with my character."

To help her play the character appropriately, Parker has been given a brief outline of Da'an's story arc for both Earth: Final Conflict's third and fourth seasons. Although the exact details have yet to be decided, she is extremely excited - and notably concerned - about what the future has in store for Da'an.

"I sort of know where I'll be in season four," she explains. "It all comes down to something Da'an said last season: 'I am a Taelon and I would never betray my own species.' That, for me, is, I guess, my key phrase. It's who Da'an is.

"It's very complicated, and it will be very interesting to see how the audience reacts.I've thought about this. I've thought, 'Oh my fans. Oh the audience loves Da'an so much.' There's part of you as an actor who doesn't want to let the audience down and always seeks approval.

"All I know is I hope Da'an comes through in the end because I'm really afraid of what's going to happen this year. I don't know how Da'an will explain whatever turn of events happens."

Naturally, as Da'an's role in the series is redefined, so too are his relationships with many of its characters. Da'an no longer acts as Liam's mentor, and their interaction becomes increasingly hostile. He also shares much more screen time with Agent Sandoval, after their apparent estrangement during season two. Most intriguingly of all, though, an early third season episode makes a startling revelation about Da'an's relationship with Zo'or."It's a very big one," agrees Parker. "It's one of those moments that, hopefully, if you're sitting at home watching it, you won't be talking through it! Because if you do, you'll miss that line. And if you do hear it, you'll wonder if you heard what you think you heard.

"It's really exciting. It was an intense scene, but it was fun to shoot and provoked a lot of spin-off jokes!"

Listening to Parker discussing Earth: Final Conflict with her customary eloquence, wit and passion, it's hard to believe that in the Spring of 1999, it was widely reported that she was planning to leave the series to become a mother. But, as the actress explains, her comments had simply been taken out of context.

"That was sort of a misquote. I loved the interview, it was with my local newspaper here in Toronto, but then the internet got wind of it, and then the producers and a lot of people here (on the show) heard about it. . .For me, it's in the future. If I did decide to venture into motherhood, it would be a complete accident."

At least all those reports have stopped people thinking that the androgynous Da'an is played by a man, haven't they?

"No, it still happens," replies Parker with a chuckle. "I still have people say to me, 'I'm so embarrassed. I thought you were a six-foot man!" And sometimes, I think people see me at conventions and they're not sure I really play Da'an. They think I'm Da'an's representative or something! But I always take it as a compliment."

Reviewing her time on Earth, Parker points to Avatar, The Secret of Strandhill, Volunteers, Defector, The Cloister, Thicker Than Blood and A Little Bit of Heaven as her favorite Conflicts of interest to date. While she has been thoroughly delighted by the way the series has reclaimed its form during its third year, the actress really admits that Earth: Final Conflict's first season will be hard to top.

"I think the first year was really special," she says. "Season one of Earth: Final Conflict will be like a watermark. It just set a precedent for a certain kind of TV. It had all the elemtns of perfect science fiction TV. It was a magical formula, which we can't repeat because certain elements are now gone, including Boone, and Da'an's relationship with Boone.

"The show skirted in another direction in season two, and I think it will stay there, although it will be a bit more honed-in. But they've brought some very nice elements from season one back into season three. It's really hard to say until the season's over, but I'm pretty confident that viewers will enjoy this season."

Regardless of what the future holds for Da'an and Earth: Final Conflict, both the character and the show will remain dear to Leni Parker's heart. The passing of time certainly hasn't blurred her love for Da'an, the series, or the cast and crew. Similarly, the benefits of playing the role continue to outweigh the inevitable drawbacks, such as the daily three-hour make-up ritual which transforms her into everyone's favorite Taelon.

"Playing Da'an has made me ask a lot of questions about myself and who I am as an actor," she declares. "I'm also very lucky because I get to do something I love doing - I get to act every day. And the character brings a lot of pleasure and happiness to people out there who are watching the show. So I have an obligation to the character and to those viewers.

"Obviously, it's a mixed blessing, because the costume and make-up are not the easiest things in the world to deal with. But I'm not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. This role brings a lot of joy to my life, and to the people who watch the show."

© David Bassom, 1999, All rights reserved.