Gigi Edgley's thief steals the show in Farscape

By Jean Prescott

A conversation with Gigi Edgley is like trying to juggle bits of kinetic energy that change size and shape in the middle of your act. It's all you can do just to hold on.

Edgley is calling from New York, the last stop on a globe-hop that took her from Australia, where her hot-hot-hot Sci-Fi Channel show "Farscape" is shot, to Italy to vacation with her sisters. She is young (just 24) and breathless (understandable), with a distinctly Aussie accent.

She wants very much to talk about the fourth-season premiere of her show, which pulls 1.5 million viewers every Friday night, but vacation is on her mind.

"We've got kind of a wacky family," she says and then adds, so quickly we couldn't keep up, chapter and verse of days in Italy, plus a stop in London where she financed her stay with a quickly arranged personal appearance.

"You must surrender to the moment," Edgley declares.

Anyone who has made it a personal mission to surf cable channels for bizarre viewing has discovered "Farscape," hands-down the best science fiction on TV. It was conceived and created by people who know sci-fi, Rockne S. O'Bannon ("Alien Nation," "SeaQuest DSV") and David Kemper ("American Gothic," "Stargate SG-1") to name two. And the presence of Brian Henson's name among those of executive producers guarantees nothing short of the very best animatronic aliens.

Edgley fits into this outer-space adventure as Chiana, a feisty little Nebari (a serene race of gray people). She, though, is a peculiar Nebari, a thief and a young woman of experience — "they have called her a whore with a heart," Edgley says reluctantly — who came to be a part of the story when the existing crew of Moya (a living jail transport), rescued her from mind-cleansing by others of her Nebari race.

"I don't know what it is about her," Edgley says. "I often speak of her in the third person, but what is so beautiful about Chiana is she lets herself fall over a lot, but she picks herself up a lot, too.

"She has a lot of human error about her, but she's not afraid to take a chance," Edgley says. "She's taught me a lot, and she's a very courageous little being."

In the fourth-season opener, many of the crew of Moya, dispersed at the end of the third season, reunite. But the reunion is spoiled by the absence of some special central characters and by the fact that Chiana's "second sight" is beginning to rob her of her sight.

Edgley's makeup for the role, including contact lenses that make her eyes look white and opaque, gave her a glimpse of the real thing.

"The lenses cover almost the entire eye," she explains, "and that was a real challenge. You can see only silhouettes even when you look through the pin-prick holes for sight."

"It made me realize how much we take it for granted, and instead of wanting bigger things, we should be grateful for what we have. Some days," she says, "I would try to do things without opening my eyes, and it's amazing ... how you become aware of every heart flutter, every vibration."

It takes awhile to get her into her shades-of-gray makeup, so she's off to work before daybreak each day of shooting, five days a week, 16 hours a day.

"I drive to work in the dark, so I start every day wishing on a star," she says.

While she would love to audition for some "big, wonderful movie parts," she says, "I've had a beautiful life. It hasn't always been bright. A few really hard tricky things happened to me as a child, but I get to use the dark-and-nasties to make my career."

"Farscape" fans who are dying to know if Chiana and D'Argo — a huge, tentacled Luxan played with gusto by Anthony Simcoe — will resume their supercharged relationship, will have to continue to wonder. Edgley isn't telling.

"Some really beautiful scenes of us were shot that were never shown," she says. "I wonder if there will ever be a director's cut of 'Farscape'?"

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