Interview from Xpose Special #6, pg 26-29
Da'an Our Way
Xpose meets Leni Parker, the woman inside the alien Taelon male in Earth: Final Conflict. By Judy Sloane
Last year, Canadian actress Leni Parker created the unforgettable character of Da'an, a representative of the Taelon race in Gene Roddenberry's Earth: Final Conflict. She brought a regal spirituality to the role, which she admits grew out of her extensive research.
"I studied a lot about royalty and about the royal bloodlines in England and Scotland. I felt that Da'an came from that kind of system on Taelon. Da'an was a diplomat and somebody with upper breeding. I sometimes don't look at is as an alien. I don't go at it from that angle. This is a living breathing person, maybe bit a human, but a person. I said to my boyfriend,'I just want to do something very special. I want to do something really different.' I didn't watch Sci-Fi before this show, so I said to everybody,'If I remind you of anybody, tell me.'"
And of her extraordinary physical persona as the character, she reflects, "Stephen Roloff [the series producer] said, 'Da'an comes from an Eastern philosophy. It's very centered, it's very Zen.' Maybe my movements came out of that. They also came out of the headpiece which was extremely difficult to move. I felt that Da'an only moved at a certain pace, that I was new to Earth and adapting. As the series continued, my language sped up and my movements got quicker. But there is a certain calmness and serenity to Da'an in the movements that I felt was important to keep. That was what centered Da'an and that's what told people who Da'an was. "
And one of the many things Da'an was... was a male! Parker attempted to lower her voice in order to capture the right tome. "I did it for the audition and for the first week or so. I tried to go really low. I have a low voice, but it wasn't working."
Parker's voice is computer enhanced to get the perfect sound, and even though she was fully aware that this was taking place in post-production, the first time she heard it she was, "Shocked! I was very upset. Having done Da'an in my voice, to hear it the way it was to be took me three or four times to get used to it, to listen to it, to appreciate it and then to really love it. It completely works and I notice that it does change. It goes higher or lower depending on my vocal quality in that episode. I don't know it they are doing it purposely, but in some scenes they'll play around with it a little. I think the overall effect they've accomplished is wonderful. I wouldn't want to go back to my voice."
The actress admits that with this new season of shows it has become imperative that she knows how the upcoming story lines progress. "I like to be in the dark from one episode to the next, but this year it's very important that I read the scripts in advance because things have changed so drastically. I want to make sure when I'm playing those intentions that five episodes from now they match up, they make sense."
One of the major changes this year has to do with Kevin Kilner's departure from the cast. The actor, who played William Boone last season, left the series and has been replaced by Robert Leeshock in the role of Liam Kincaid.
"Just because Robert's a different person, there's a difference in the way that we deal with each other," states Parker. "It's not the Boone/Da'an relationship at all, probably because Robert's a bit younger. His role is so different than Boone's role in the show. I'm almost Liam's teacher in a way. Liam is a very special human being and Da'an knows this. This is a secret to the other Taelons and to a lot of humans. Da'an is privy to this information, so I am protective of him - and he is my protector. He is going to be playing the role of a double agent and Da'an will be privy to a lot more information in terms of the Resistance and in terms of the Taelons. So I'm holding all the cards and I have a few aces up my sleeve."
In her presence, it's easy to forget that Parker is portraying a male character, and my question about a possible romance between Da'an and Liam was greeted with a roar of laughter, "No! People are waiting for the Lily/Da'an romance," she remarks. "We had a hand touch, which was a shared moment, so they are wondering if something will develop. I think that did touch both of us, but in what way I don't know. It is purely pupil/mentor with Liam and Da'an. It's a nice relationship, Robert made it easy for me to play the role. He made it easy for me to switch gears as his energy is completely different."
Parker seems genuinely excited by the other challenges this season has offered her. "There's a lot more action which I'm really enjoying. The first day on the set there were a couple of stunts, falling down, being caught and dodging bullets - that stuff's great. I had to run down a tunnel with Liam, and I said, 'This is the first time Da'an has run!' I think that's what the producers and writers wanted to develop, the very active side of the Taelons, as they were very calm and they didn't move enough. I think people want more movement."
Parker acknowledges that her initial vision for Da'an has changed since last season. As she portrayed him week after week she discovered, "There's a really strong side to Da'an where I never like to forget my species before I will protect earth, and that's something I would slowly like to integrate into the show. There is that element of Taelon in me that is protective, protective of Zo'or, protective of Rho-ha or any other Taelon. Being thrown into many different situations I've learned how Da'an deals with those situations and that has thrown me for a loop a lot of times.
"Emotionally, how do you take it in and give it out as Da'an? That's always a learning experience. Sometimes I have to remember that it's an alien and those big emotions don't exist, they aren't developed fully for we've gone beyond those human emotions. When I see myself in the later episodes of the first season, I think it's too emotional, too giving, too compromising and too compassionate. It's an alien after all. I have a feeling for humans, but it's not in human terms."
And with all the new challenges that face her this year, the old one continues... "The makeup is a killer," she confesses. "It's not getting easier, it's getting worse on the old skin. It's a mask that goes over the yes and cheekbones and down around the nose. It gets low on the eyes when they put the contacts in, and if the piece is too tight that day it's claustrophobic for me. I thought I could Zen out this year, but I think I'm dealing with it worse than I did last year."
How has the role changed her as a person? "It has taught me a lot about dealing with people, ow to keep my cool and how to work through situations calmly. It has tested my physical stamina. I had to really get into shape for this year, which I did. That was a personal goal, which I thought was extremely important. I'm wearing a 15 pound costume, so I thought I'd better get in shape for this season and get ready for the long hours. It wasn't up to anybody else, it was up to me. So I did and that taught me a lot about how far I can push myself, which is very, very far. Creatively, I'm still searching for this perfect character which is not always perfect for me. I have moments. When it's really good, it is somebody else. When I'm not having such a good day, the character's more like me and I think, 'Oh, Leni!' In roles like this you can never walk through it with your eyes closed. It shows. I know when I'm in it and when I'm not."
Parker is still amazed by the show's instant success, admitting she really felt science fiction fans would scrutinize and critisize everything about it. Like what? Leni reels off the list, "The inter-dimensional flight, what the shuttle looked like, what the sets looked like, the characters. I thought I would be completely lambasted. I thought, 'here we go, I'm a bulb person! Well, we haven't seen that before, have we?' I'm very surprised that the show has taken off. But I'm not surprised now with the whole season finished because there were strong episodes. I think it appeals to people of different age groups and with different things in mind because it throws so much into the shows. The relationships are strong. The writing is incredibly strong, you've got these very detailed, intricate, plots which I think people are ready to handle. It feels like we are moving into the second season and we are getting the audience we need."
Parker attended her first convention this year and was interested and fascinated to meet the fans. "They wanted to know about my makeup and to talk about the plot developments. They ask me totally about the show, and never about myself, so I feel like I am Da'an sometimes. They just want to know about Da'an. The question I get all the time is how much of you is Da'an? And sometimes it feels like the two met and there's a marriage there. Sometimes I'm in a bad mood, not having a good day, or I'm really bitchy and that's so far from Da'an that I feel a bit like I'm betraying him. The energy is not quite right. Da'an on a really good day feels like a stage play to me. It feels very magical.