Anthony Simcoe likes to set challenges for himself, especially portraying the same character over many seasons of a television show. There are limitations to playing D’Argo on FARSCAPE, imposed by the prosthetics and costume, and the world in which the Luxan lives. More comfortable with the makeup by the time season three started, Simcoe wanted to find the comedy in D’Argo.
The actor explained, “Each season gets easier and easier for me. Initially it was all about the physical hardship rather than the storytelling. But now I can just focus on doing my job and having fun. Each season I just set myself a goal. This season my goal was to make D’Argo really funny, just to make him funnier and funnier as the season went on. I think we have accomplished that in lots of ways.”
Some of the humor is actually in the scripts, and some is improvised. Explained Simcoe, “Because of the fantastic flexibility we are allowed on the show, lots is scripted, and also they allow me to throw in jokes and one-liners and gags throughout the episodes. It pushes your character in a slightly different direction. Doing serial television, year after year, can be a bit stale, so it’s nice to feel that you can branch out. I think it also incorporates more of my personality, the comedy side, because that’s where a lot of my background has come from. It’s been wonderful to find a way for that to work within a character like D’Argo.”
Early on, in “Different Destinations,” Simcoe enjoyed the chance to improvise and to work with Tammy MacIntosh, who plays Jool. Said Simcoe, “‘Different Destinations’ was one where I was lucky enough to add lots of dialogue. [Director] Peter Andrikidis was really free and flexible with me doing that. It was the first time Jool came in and really interacted with us. It was good to be there, for Tammy finding her feet, because I’ve known Tammy for a long time. In fact, we used to be flat-mates, years and years ago. It was great fun playing with her.”
The comedic side of D’Argo appeared more clearly after the creation of two Crichtons and the split-up of the crew. On Moya, John, D’Argo, Chiana and Jool found themselves with little to do except look for wormholes and get in trouble. Noted Simcoe, “I think that right up until we get back together, the Moya eps just get funnier and funnier.”
In “Scratch ‘N Sniff,” for example, Pilot got so annoyed with John and D’Argo’s fighting that he threw them off Moya. Along with the girls, they had an adventure. Laughed Simcoe, “It was a really fun episode to shoot. It was another great example of where the show takes lots of risks. Just to muck around with the storytelling style and structure of the show in that way, I think, was quite a brave thing for a television show to do. It keeps everyone on their toes, and it keeps the show looking imaginative. We shot it, and it was a disaster. It was a completely linear story about going down to the planet, the girls getting captured and us coming down and saving them. [Director] Tony Tilse wanted to take a larger risk with it. He’s the person who re-cut and restructured it in the way that it is. We invented Crichton telling the story to Pilot, and it being reported as an afterthought. So Ben [Browder] and I had this extra afternoon of B shoot where we went in and did all those scenes where we are talking to Pilot. It turned into one of my favorite eps from season three.”
“Revenging Angel,” the episode with animation, gave Simcoe even more chances to be funny (see sidebar). In the story, while near death, Crichton imagines D’Argo is chasing him, both the real D’Argo and the cartoon version. Simcoe recalled, “It was interesting to go back to real gag-based comedy, running into walls, falling through things, chases, sight gags, which I’ve never done on film before. To do that within the construct of FARSCAPE, and within the constraints of being D’Argo, was just a really fascinating challenge, and it really fired me up. That was the episode of the season – there is always one – where you need to take more care. You need to detail more. You need to really do your homework a lot more thoroughly than you would on another ep, and that was that ep for me. We really wanted those gags to work, because there is a danger that they just become sentimental. I think they will be sentimental anyway just because of the type of gags that they are, slipping on banana peels and things like that – but you want them to be funny. You want them to be brave and outrageous and have your own spin on them.”
As Simcoe looked back on season three, he promised an exciting final four episodes. At the time of this interview, Simcoe could not give away plot spoilers. But he did have some advice for FARSCAPE viewers. He said, “What you can look out for is Claudia Black. People who are lucky enough to watch FARSCAPE are watching the birth of a star. I’ve worked with so many different actors from all over the world. I think everyone in the cast is wonderful, but just watching her work grow and grow is something quite extraordinary. That’s what people should be looking out for. I think in ten year’s time, they are going to be saying, ‘There was that show FARSCAPE. That was where Claudia Black started out.’ People who are lucky enough to go on that journey watching her do that, are going to feel really included in her career. Episode after episode, she proves herself not to be a good actress, but to be a truly, truly great actress. That’s amazing to be around. I think we’re all blown away by it at different stages, as we go. We are all industry professionals that have been doing it for years and years. It’s really nice to feel like you are next to that energy, and go, ‘Wow, she’s a star, in the best possible sense of the word star.’ There is something magical going on there.”
Simcoe laughed, “That’s a bit of a fan club rave. I’ll have to get her to give me fifty bucks tomorrow when I see her at work.”
Copyright 2002 by Anna L. Kaplan. A shortened version of this article originally appeared in the June 2000 issue of Cinefantastique (Volume 34, Number 3-4). You can access other articles from this issue here.