Monday, October 25, 2004

Stuck in SciFi

I watch way too much television. As such, I have noticed a pattern that I think all actors who are considering taking a part on a science fiction movie or television show should be aware of before they sign that contract. I keep seeing the same people over and over – and I rarely see them anywhere else. (By the by, for the purposes of this essay, and since they’re often hard to separate anyway, sci-fi is science fiction as well as fantasy – everything from Hercules to Star Trek and back again).

This goes beyond the usual stereotyping seen in the entertainment industry. Let’s call it genre-typing. It used to be a phenomenon in westerns. In fact, several people have made the transition from stuck in westerns to stuck in sci-fi (ie, William Shatner, Lorne Greene, um, did I mention Canadians fall victim to this more often than most?)

Now, part of this is apparently a function of the fact that many science fiction television shows (particularly syndicated ones), as well as some movies, are filmed in Canada and many sci-fi movies (and some tv shows) are filmed in New Zealand. And Canada and New Zealand apparently have a limited number of actors living there. Case in point for Canada – Katie Stuart whom I first saw in “Crow: Stairway to Heaven”, then started noticing her in several other shows that I watched either regularly or occasionally including Stargate SG-1, Outer Limits, Poltergeist: The Legacy (I watched it two or three times, shut up), and mostly recently, I saw her on Dead Like Me, though IMDB doesn’t mention it. It almost seemed as if, when a story called for a young girl, either she or Collen Rennison (or both) were called in if the series was filmed in Canada. In fact, they are evidently considered so interchangeable, they played the same character, Cassandra, on different episodes of Stargate SG-1. Of course, now that the two of them are old enough to be in college (or at least applying for it), they’ll have to find a new “young girl”.

Oh, but you don’t have to be Canadian to be stuck in scifi. Sigourney Weaver is a prime example of genre-typing without being stereotyped. Her character is Ghostbusters is hardly Ripley from Alien or Gwen Demarco from Galaxy Quest (a sci-fi parody, but still). I think she’s managed to play a variety of characters within science fiction. Not to mention the fact that she pioneered the role of the strong heroine. Buffy’s got nothin’ on her.

Ahem. Anyhoo. I seem to have picked out two actresses stuck in sci-fi. Maybe that’s because there are just so many actors out there to choose from. Star Trek alone has produced so many I’ve lost track. Watch any given episode of Xena or Hercules and you can spot at least two or three people you’ve seen other places (in some ways, that’s thanks to Sam Raimi, who puts Bruce Campbell and his brother Ted in just about everything he does).

Now, maybe some of these people are showing up other places, I just don’t watch the other types of shows the appear in. This site has a list of actors who just seem to pop up everywhere (por ejemplo, Clancy Brown does a lot of sci-fi and voice work in addition to his “cop or robber” roles. Fear his voice. Especially as Mr. Krabs.)

So that’s where they went...

Sometimes, those who have become trapped inside the world of sci-fi (or, worse yet, a specific role) seem to find secondary careers in voice work. Leonard Neomoy started the trend of hosting or narrating documentary-style television shows with "In Search Of...". Many sci-fi stars lend their voice to cartoons and video games. Heck, Gargoyles was practically a Star Trek: The Next Generation reunion. Mark Hamill (talk about trapped in sci-fi) has done a tremendous amount of voice work since playing Luke Skywalker. He’s particularly good as the Joker on Batman: The Animated Series. Sometimes, over the top is appropriate.

My advice to actors who find themselves stuck in sci-fi - don't fight it. It may very well give you something that most actors never know - job security.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

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A passionate fan for years so I started my own blog :-)

8/17/2006 9:23 PM  

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