Interview from Xpose Special # 12 Summer 2000 pages 28-31
Get Da'an On It
Divided loyalties have meant a year of shifting alliances for Da'an, Earth: Final Conflict's sympathetic Taelon with a few dark secrets up his sleeve, as Leni Parker tells Steven Erano.
Life has certainly been busy as of late for Leni Parker, who plays the kind-hearted, insightful and androgynous alien Taelon Da'an on Earth: Final Conflict. The Canadian actress recently returned home to Toronto tired but professionally invigorated after what she calls her "European tour." Parker flew to Paris to attend a science fiction convention, then on to the Ukraine where she spent a month-and-a-half shooting a feature film, and finally arrived in London for a well-deserved rest.
"I had a wonderful trip and my time in the Ukraine was amazing," she enthuses. "The movie I did is called Furnace and it's about the life of Russian director Sergei Eisenstein (best know for the classic 1925 film Battleship Potemkin). It's a Canadian/German production starring British actor Simon McBurney and directed by fellow Brit Renny Barlett. I play Anya, One of Mayerhold's students during the Revolution. She ages from 25 to 40 during the story, so on the days that I worked I got to sit in the make-up chair for half an hour while they made me look pretty before I went on set. What a difference from putting on my Da'an head," jokes Parker.
"Doing this movie was the most fabulous experience I've had in my career so far and I don't expect to top it for quite a while. I had my first love scene, which was really fun, and I got to try out my British accent. We'll have to wait and see about that, though. The jury is still out on that one for me," laughs the actress. "Emotionally, I was so into the character that I'm hoping the accent was stoong enough. For a while there I was worried and thought, 'Can I don this?' Finally I convinced myself, 'Yes, of course I can. After all, this (acting) is what I love to do.'"
The film came right on the heels of Parker finishing her work on the third season of Earth: Final Conflict. Longtime viewers of the series will remember the pilot episode 'Truth' and seeing Da'an for the first time when he arrives by the Taelon shuttle to meet Jonathan Doors (David Hemblen). Although loyal to his race, Da'an was not comfortable with the Taelon's plans for humankind and often expressed his disapproval to the Taelon Synod. After all this time, he is still trying to help humanity but his tactics have changed, allowing Parker to reveal different and sometimes darker sides of her character.
"Its always interesting for an actor to be able to be going into a third season of a show," says Parker. "You hit a stride in a certain sense. I will say that I was more relaxed and confident about what I was doing as far as my character was concerned. I didn't question a lot of things, mainly because we had an excellent writing team. The producers brought together a very strong group of writers that succeeded in getting the program back on track after what had been a slightly uneven second season. Beyond that, things just kept getting better and better in terms of the storyline.
"They focused a lot on Zo'or last year, which I thought was great for Anita La Selva. With Da'an, probably not as much as I would've liked but he remained important to the plot. There were still those secrets and alliances that Da'an was holding close to him and that's what the writers concentrated on. For example, in the episode 'The Cloister', we learn that Da'an and Zo'or are related, in fact, very closely related. That was a shock to us all," laughs the actress. "However, it was fun to play with that knowledge throughout the rest of the season and realize that that's what motivated Da'an to make the decisions he sometimes did."
The Taelon mothership became a bit more crowded during Earth: Final Conflict's third season with the arrival of two new crewmembers - T'Than (Michelle Nolden), the Taelon war minister, and Mit'gai (Anaya Farrell), a Taelon healer and scientist. Both these semi-regular characters, along with FBI Special Agent Ron Sandoval (Von Flores), had a part to play in the ongoing battle of wits between Zo'or and Da'an.
"There was a lot of animosity between T'Than and Da'an which could have been played out in a number of ways," notes Pareker. "At one point I though, 'OK, maybe Da'an's alliances are with T'Than.' Originally, the T'Than character was supposed to be an older Taelon who was more mature and more staid than Zo'or, but he actually turned out to be quite a feisty individual who rubbed Da'an the wrong way. The two had a couple of run-ins and Da'an finally chose not to side with T'Than and his allies, including Mit'gai, and essentially remained loyal to Zo'or.
"After 'The Cloister' and the revelation that Zo'or was Da'an's child, I had hoped that we would have seen Da'an teaching Zo'or and guiding him towards a path that would have made him a more compassionate character. Unfortunately, that wasn't what happened. Zo'or is the young upstart and, despite their parent/child connection, he and Da'an are always pitted against each other. Da'an is forced to sit back and watch as his child makes mistakes and must try to protect the Taelons from Zo'or's errors in judgement. At the same time, he has to save Zo'or from himself. Boy, he's a busy little bee," the actress jokes.
"I also noticed last season that there was a storyline developing between Da'an and Sandoval," she adds.
"When we left off at the end of the second year it was evident that Sandoval had come to arrest Da'an, but for some reason the writers didn't follow through with that idea. I don't know where they would've taken it or what the charges against Da'an would have been. Now, suddenly, the two of them are back in cahoots, but they definitely still have their own agendas. I don't think Da'an's allegences necessarily lie with Sandoval but there are certain things they know about each other that they want kept secret. This is what precipates their need for mutual co-operation."
Da'an's covert efforts to help his people as well as Zo'or sometimes put him at odds with his Companion protector Liam Kincaid (Robert Leeshock), who begins to wonder if his trust in the Taelon had been misplaced. "I think they wanted to see less of a teacher/pupil relationship in the third season and more animosity between the two characters," explains Parker. "Of course, having said that, Liam is, first and foremost, Da'an's Companion protector. He might not have been given a CVI (Cyber-Viral Implant), but he does possess that old die-hard loyalty where he will ultimately protect Da'an no matter what, even if he doesn't agree with his politics. Deep down Liam probably knows that my character is, in a sense, the lessor of two evils, but just doesn't know what to make of what he considers to be Da'an's recent 'odd' behavior."
Parker is quick to praise series lead Robert Leeshock for helping her make the scenes between Liam and Da'an so convincing. "My God, there were times last season when we'd finish a take and I'd look at Robert and think, 'Wow!" He's just so talented. He and I are often amazed by some of the things we discover together about our characters. We push each other in a really nice way that's similar to how Kevin Kilner (Captain William Boone) and I worked together back in the first seaosn. We'd do a scene and, as actors, instinctively knew, 'OK, that was the one,' or, 'Yes, we got somewhere that time.'
"I had a dicussion with Paul Gertz (writer/executive producer) and told him, 'The material you wrote for Liam and Da'an this (third) season was fantastic' and he said, 'Well, you guys take it and make it better than I thought it could be.' I'm fortunate in that Paul knows the Da'an character and how to write for it. I'll be sitting in the make-up chair reading a script and think, 'This story is great'. I'll look at the cover and see Paul's name. You've really got to understand who and what you're writing about. I've mentioned this before - if the words don't ring true then the audience isn't going to buy it."
After surviving several assassination attempts, a kidnapping and even being transformed into an Atavus (a primitive ancestor of the Taelons), Da'an's luck may have finally run out in Earth: Final Conflict's third season final 'Arrival'. The Taelon holds the lives of Captain Lili Marquette (Lisa Howard) and his race's arch enemies, the Jaridians, in his hands, but will he make the supreme sacrifice to save them? Meanwhile, Da'an's future depends on what the show's producers and writers have up their sleeves.
"I'm not quite sure what's going on for the fourth season. It's a bit of a cliffhanger for Da'an," chuckles Parker. "I'm in the first two episodes, but after that I'll have to wait and see. Depending, of course, on what happens, I'd love for there to be even more intrigue in Da'an's life. It would be great to continue his relationship with Sandoval and really push it right to the edge. I think the scenes between Anita La Selva and myself are fabulous. I never get tired of them and I don't think the audience does either. I'd also like to see the writers explore more of the Taelon history.
"Honestly, I'm up for anything this year, as long as its fun and a challenge as well as rewarding," says the actress.