When GateWorld visited the set of Stargate SG-1 this spring, our Farscape-loving owner got a rare and unexpected treat: Claudia Black, straight from Australia, was on set. After an introduction to both Claudia and former co-star Ben Browder, we sat down with the actress for a quick five minutes in between takes of Season Nine’s fifth episode, “The Powers That Be.”
In our interview, Claudia recalls her time working on last year’s “Prometheus Unbound,” and how the guest stint turned into a 6-episode run at the start of Season Nine. Claudia also talks about what she loves about Vala Mal Doran, and how the character grows this year.
Vala says goodbye to SG-1 in “Beachhead” … but could she return down the road? Don’t count her out just yet!
Our audio interview with Claudia runs just under 5 minutes, and is also transcribed below.
GateWorld: Were you hoping to return to Stargate after “Prometheus Unbound” wrapped last year?
Claudia Black: I was. I’m surprised to be able to walk onto a set and feel so comfortable. So just the social aspects of being in that sort of workplace. I was very grateful that everyone was so kind. And I loved working with Andy and Michael. So, yeah, if the opportunity arose I knew I’d and make it if possible to come back.
And the other thing was the crew, of course, was saying, “Your character doesn’t die at the end of this — she’ll come back for sure!” And not that that matters in science fiction — you can still die and they’ll find a way to bring you back.
So at first we didn’t that I’d be able to do the episode. It was just lucky timing that I finished my post-syncs for Peacekeeper Wars in time to get on the plane with two days notice and get the Canadian work permit and get here. Well, it was lucky the Canadian government is very kind to Australians and they expedite the process because we’re part of the commonwealth.
And “Prometheus Unbound” was supposed to be a bottle episode: contained budget, nothing off-world, no expensive locations, what have you, just something that was character-based. And I liked that when I first read it, that it was just self-contained story, that I wouldn’t have to get used to the whole world straight-away, and be overwhelmed by it, potentially.
And when I spoke to the producers on the phone, and Andy Mikita in advance, they said, “A show that’s been running this long, they’re going to be a happy set so I think you’ll enjoy it.” And they were absolutely right.
GW: So now your return is — you’re returning in a big way.
CB: In a big way!
GW: What was appealing to you about this 5-episode [now 6-episode] stint?
CB: I was sent the first episode, and I got on the phone straight-away and rang Robert Cooper and thanked him. And I think he was a little surprised, and he was waiting for the “But …” “It’s fabulous … but!” And he’s just waiting.
And I think he’s not used to compliments, so he sort of quickly and shyly changed the subject. And he was probably busy at the time — I called him probably at a bad time. But I felt very spoiled. And that’s when I said to him, “Vala is a treat. You’ve given her such fantastic things to do and say, and I’m very grateful.”
And, obviously, it came about because Amanda has something very exciting going on in her personal life. And we were able to oblige and make that work.
She’s a very vibrant, very — hopefully — entertaining character. People responded very, very well — especially on set — immediately to the chemistry between Vala and Daniel. She’s a perfect foil for him because he is so serious, and she’s just this wonderful ball of light and energy. And the fact that she’s got an edge to her and can’t be trusted means comedically I’ve got fantastic scope.
And that was the main reason why I took the first role on “Prometheus,” because I read the script and thought it was really funny. And I just wanted to make sure that they had the same intentions as I had inferred. And so I spoke to Andy Mikita and said to him, “How far can I go with the comedy, because I see some great potential for the character.” And he said, “Oh, go all the way, honey! Do whatever you want.”
And so for me to turn that corner from Farscape, carrying the huge dramatic heart and soul of that piece as a series, and to be able to flip that and be in a lot of ways responsible for the comedy in our scenes — it’s a challenge, it’s daunting, but it’s a lot of fun.
GW: We got to know a little bit about Vala and her background in “Prometheus Unbound,” but then it turns out she’s a con and we don’t know how much we can believe is true.
CB: I think a good liar always keeps as close to the truth as possible. That’s what I’ve been told!
GW: Are we going to learn more about the real Vala in Season Nine?
CB: I think so. I think we actually get to see some of her vulnerability. We just did a really interesting scene the other day where — she really is an onion. She’s a cute onion! Maybe she doesn’t smell so bad! Occasionally Daniel will get close and peel off a few too many layers, and her guard comes up again.
And what I like is the idea, and because I am such a romantic, that she’s never come across someone like Daniel before. And it seems that she’s been sent to drive him crazy.
GW: So their very special relationship is going to continue in these episodes?
CB: Yeah! Vala and Daniel’s relationship is timeless in a comedy sense. So there’s certainly a lot of scope for them. Romantically, who knows? Who knows?