The Many Lives of Gigi
By Jennifer Dudley
Gigi Edgley: "Dad,
I'm playing a smack whore,'
and he said 'What? Jesus,
you're not doing method
(acting) are you?' The next
one was 'Dad, I'm an alien'
and he's like 'Jeez, get a real job'.
GIGI Edgley has played an alien "space trollop", a smack whore, a train wreck victim and a severely disabled woman in her young acting career.
Unsurprisingly, it is a resume that has often shocked her father, concert promoter Michael Edgley.
"I moved to Sydney from Brisbane and I phoned him and said, 'Dad, guess what? I'm playing a smack whore,' and he said 'What? Jesus, you're not doing method (acting) are you?' " she laughs.
"And I said, 'No, no, not like that. I'm just walking through Kings Cross but I'm not doing anything.' The next one was 'Dad, I'm an alien' and he's like 'Jeez, get a real job'. "
The alien she is referring to is Chiana, a main player in the American sci-fi television series Farscape, filmed in Sydney.
The show earned solid ratings in the US and a cult following in Australia, where it screened on Fox 8 and Channel 9 for four seasons, wrapping recently.
Edgley's role in the show, her first regular television gig, saw her sit through 3½ hours of make-up each day and bond quickly with strangers.
"I would be on set at 4am getting my make-up applied and then I'd go up to the three extras that I didn't even know and say, 'OK, I'm going to touch you and I'm going to kiss you and then I'm probably going to put my hand here and then I'll be leaning a bit with my head to the right but I'm not going to do it now because the make-up will get ruined so we'll save it for the take, right?" she says in a flurry of dialogue.
"I'd have no idea what their names were and it was just very bizarre."
But not as strange, she contends, as playing a normal human being.
"I'd been working with these animatronics that have seven arms and making love to an alien with tentacles and then I had to make love with a human and I was like, 'What? Now this is getting scary,' " she says.
After discovering Farscape had been axed by its American TV network, and travelling to the US to meet some of its many dedicated fans, Edgley was offered an audition for The Secret Life of Us.
She initially struggled to get back to Australia in time, learning her lines while pacing through Los Angeles airport.
She took a break only for a shower before arriving at the audition. However, the 25-year-old actor was quickly snapped up by the show's producers.
Meeting Edgley in the flesh, it's easy to see why she was chosen. The petite daughter of Jenny and Michael is a down-to-earth and friendly woman with plenty to say.
Easily excitable, she talks passionately and at a frantic pace about her acting ambitions and philosophies on life.
Secret Life producers initially had difficulty deciding whether she should play Miranda's girlfriend Chloe or Christian's partner, George, in the show, but Edgley says she is thrilled to have landed the role of George.
George has just arrived in Melbourne after travelling through Europe and Asia. She returns to reunite with Christian, the boyfriend she left behind.
The pair had been together for 18 months before George disappeared overseas, and Edgley says she returned because she is convinced "he might be it".
"He's what every girl wants," she says of Michael Dorman's character, Christian.
"He's the gentle, touching, caring, romantic elfin prince almost and she's looking for something challenging as well.
"She's at a point where she wants an answer and wants it all out on the table, because that's the sort of girl she is, whereas he says just hold me and you'll feel it."
Edgley bonded easily with her new on-screen boyfriend, Dorman. The pair shared a similar acting background, both having studied at the Queensland University of Technology.
"We'd done the same techniques so we'd be sitting around going, 'Did you do emotional cocktails?' 'Oh, I do a great emotional cocktail'. Weird stuff like that."
But playing a seemingly normal woman in The Secret Life of Us came with many challenges for Edgley. No longer was she one of the show's original cast members, as she had been on Farscape.
She was a newcomer to the show, as Claudia Karvan had been to her beloved sci-fi series.
She also had to adjust to a character's profession she had barely heard of before. George is an industrial designer which Edgley says is "so far from my reality and so far from my left-brain creative mind".
Edgley struggled with the profession during the initial stages of her extensive research, she says, until she made a rare find: a real-life industrial designer.
"I've now come to think of her as a conjurer who likes to create and is a bit of a mad inventor," she says.
But the most challenging part of her new role, Edgley says, is taking off the mask. No longer an alien being, playing a woman meant she had to adopt a more natural style of acting. Rather than adding her character's voice track later, Edgley also has to get it right on the spot "technically, emotionally and physically".
The happy-go-lucky actor is enjoying the new challenge though, and treasures scripts as they arrive.
She even hints at a new development for her character. George does have a special bond with Evan, she admits – though she cannot elaborate.
Winning the Secret Life role also has had additional benefits for Edgley. She's finally being recognised for her work, in the literal sense, and she'll attend her first Logie Awards night this year.
The actor says she will be part of The Secret Life of Us for the next six months, "I think to the end of the series", but she is unsure whether the show will continue for another series.
"There's been a bit of a hammering since Claudia left, which is to be expected, so it'll be interesting to see how the show reacts to that," she says. "I'm too much the new kid at this stage to get the complete vibe and I've been so concerned with trying to find out who this character George is."
Whatever happens, Edgley seems to be enjoying the chance to be human again.