Interview from TV Zone, Issue 112, pg 60-63
An androgenous alien played by a heavily disguised actress, Da'an is more of an enigma than the Mona Lisa.
Ever since the start of Earth: Final Conflict, viewers have been left guessing about the true motives of the Taelon Companion Da'an. At first, the mysterious alien ambassador seemed committed to fulfilling his people's hidden agenda, and looked set to lead the conquest of Humanity. By the end of the show's first season, however, Da'an had emerged as a leading advocate for mankind's survival.Now, as Earth: Final Conflict's second season kicks into high gear, Leni Parker insists that viewers can once again expect the unexpected from her Taelon alter ego. In a break from shooting one of the season's closing installments, the Canadian actress promises that Da'an still has some surprises up his sleeve.
"Da'an is going on a bit of a journey this year," Parker explains." We certainly see him struggling with his darker side a little more this season. I think that Da'an became too good last year, and I wanted to move away from that a little. The character had a very enigmatic quality in the beginning, and I feel it's important that we don't lose that.
"I also believe that we should never lose sight of the fact that Da'an is an alien. One of the character's most appealing aspects is his alien-ness, but for a while, he became too Human and too identifiable with Human emotions. So I've been back-pedalling a bit this season, trying to bring out those alien qualities once again.
"I don't think that Da'an will ever betray the Human race or turn on it," the actress adds reassuringly. "Da'an has a compassion and a connection to Humanity which I think is an important element of who he fundamentally is. But he is still a Taelon, and he feels fiercely protective of his own species. So you will see a stronger side to the character, particularly in the second half of this season. "
Friends and Foes
The new season of Earth: Final Conflict sees Da'an operating in a radically different environment than in the show's opening year. Following the appointment of his arch enemy, Zo'or, as the leader of the Taelon Synod , Da'an has become something of an outsider among his own people, and his few allies include his enigmatic Human-Kimera protector, Liam Kincaid.
"The biggest change for me this year is that I get to work more with Anita LaSelva, who plays Zo'or." Parker notes. "In a way, our relationship has replaced my scenes with Boone. We have a lot of fun together, and we play off each other nicely. We just shot some great scenes that you'll see towards the end of the season which we just love. They show a stronger side to Da'an and, I guess, a more vulnerable side to Zo'or, which was really nice to explore.
"I think it was tough for Robert [Leeshock, Liam Kincaid] coming into a show that was already so established, but he's done a really find job of fitting in and taking over. He's handled our scenes particularly well, especially as the writers still seem to be trying to figure out what exactly the relationship between Liam and Da'an is!"
While Parker has enjoyed developing Da'an's relationships with Zo'or and Liam, she admits to feelings saddened by the absence of the show's original leading man, Kevin Kilner. As Da'an's original protector and confidante, Captain William Boone, Kilner shared a wonderful rapport with Parker, which resulted in some of Earth: Final Conflict's most memorable moments.
"I though Kevin was wonderful and I really miss him a lot," she states. "i thought some of those scenes between us were fabulous. Kevin was a person who gave everything in his work-and still does. Our scenes were really special to me."
Learning Curve Kilner's departure was part of a complete overhaul of Earth: Final Conflict's original concept, which was masterminded by the show's producers in a bid to make the show more action-orientated and accessible to casual viewers. According to Parker, the revamp has been a difficult progress, but one which has paid dividends in the final episodes of Season Two.
"This year has been an extreme challenge," she reveals. "I think last year was complete bliss for all of us and we were kind of floating throughout the year. But this season has really forced us to take stock of our characters, decide where we're going with them and what we're doing with them. It's been hard for all of us...There have been times where [the writes] seem to have been unsure where Da'an's place in the show is. And because it's such an action-orientated show this year, there have been moments when I've been caught up in the whole rush of it.
"I felt that the first seven or eight episodes of the season were really hot. Then there was a kind of a lull, until it picks up. I think the last eight episodes or so really get back to Earth at it's best. We've had some fantastic scenes which the audience will really love."
The actress hopes that the latter episodes of the season will win over viewers who have been disappointed by the show's new direction, and intends to follow their reaction closely via the Internet.
From what I've seen so far on my computer, I think most people seem to like the new season," she points out. "There's been a lot of good feedback, and alot of people just love Robert... But not everyone's convinced, especially on the Boone Memorial Website. It asks visitors to sign a petition for Boone's return. I think that's really harsh!."
Born and raised in New Brunswick, Canada, Leni Parker studied acting at Concordia University before beginning a 10 year association with the Pigeon International Theatre company. Besides amassing an extensive array of theatre credits, the actress has appeared in such screen productions as Million Dollar Babies, Lassie, The Sleep Room, Emily of New Moon and Screamers. Parker was the producers' first choice to play Da'an in Earth: Final Conflict, and felt an affinity to the role from her very first audition.
"My instincts about the character were bang on from the moment I started the role, and the character has experienced a certain evolution. In the beginning, Da'an was so curious and so young, and you could see him adapting to planetary life among Humans. I think that was a very interesting arc for the character, and it certainly was very enjoyable to play."
Dear Mr. Parker
To portray Da'an as an androgenous alien, Parker undergoes an arduous three-hour makeup process, and dons a five-layer suit, which incorporates padded shoulders and muscles. Following principal photography, her dialogue is electronically altered in post-production to give Da'an's voice it's distinctive Taelon sound. The result is so impressive that many viewers have found it hard to ascertain whether Da'an is played by a man or a woman!
"I still get the occasional letter addressed to Mr Parker," the actress laughs. "Or a letter that says, 'My friend and I are having a debate: are you a man or a woman?'"
Paker herself has a love-hate relationship with the process that transforms her into Da'an. "It's extremely grueling. To be honest, I never realized that wearing the costume and prosthetics would be so hard. But on the other hand, I just couldn't play Da'an without the contacts and the headpiece. It's all so accumulative, and it's become such an important part of the character."
Da'an to Earth
During Earth: Final Conflict's opening year, Parker's captivating portrayal of Da'an really caught the imagination of viewers, and rapidly established the Taelon Companion as the show's most popular character. Although Season Two seems to have pushed Da'an towards the sidelines a little bit, the actress remains philosophical about this particular development.
"It's really more of an ensemble show this year," she explains. "And there isn't the same sense of wonderment surrounding Da'an and the Taelons. This season is more about how Human beings deal with coexisting with aliens, so you see more of Da'an and Zo'or on the mothership, and you'll be more familiar with the Taelon way of life. It's like Star Trek: The Next Generation, with Humans and aliens co-existing alongside each other. And in that respect, it's been a good season for everyone.
"But I think people will always have a soft spot for Da'an. He's still a character people can really relate to, which is so funny seeing as he's an alien! i get letter saying 'Never give in to Zo'or.' A lot of people want to see Da'an triumph over Zo'or.
"It felt really nice to be singled out last year," Parker admits. "It was wonderful to know that I was reaching out to people and that they understood what I was doing. I honestly don't know why people respond to the character as strongly as they do, but I'm very grateful they do."
With Earth: Final Conflict about to enter its hiatus, Leni Parker plans to take a well earned rest from the trails and tribulations of playing an androgynous alien. Nevertheless, the actress looks forward to returning to the show's soundstages for it's proposed third season, and is excited to see what the future holds for her Taelon Companion, Da'an.
"I hope Earth will run for four or five more years," she states. "And I think that's entirely possible, because the show can go in a number of different directions. You could create new characters, new species, new races... The possibilities of this show are just endless!"David Bassom