“Farscape” Season Three: Francesca Buller – Guest Star Extraordinaire

Francesca Buller as Raxil in 'Scratch 'N Sniff'By Anna L. Kaplan

Francesca Buller, Ben Browder’s wife, returned to FARSCAPE season three, playing a duplicitous character named Raxil in “Scratch ‘N Sniff.” Raxil tried to convince Crichton that she could help him and D’Argo find Chiana and Jool. She was really conning Crichton. Buller wanted her husband’s help, actor-to-actor, in selling one of their scenes. She recalled, “You know that scene in the bar? I dupe Crichton. I said to Ben, ‘Can you help me out in this scene.’ He says to me, ‘No. I don’t believe a word you are saying.’ I said, ‘You don’t believe a word I am saying?’ He said. ‘No. Obviously I just want the girls. I think your just leading me up the path.’ As an actor I am thinking, ‘You’ve got to let me in. You’ve got to believe some of what I am saying. You’ve got to help me out a bit. You’ve got to trust me.’ He said, ‘No, I don’t trust you.’ So as an actor, we both had this wonderful, ‘You are going to do that? Oh no.’ Yet at the same time, we found it was fun. It was two different paths, which is often the case, and I could not and should not change his path, and equally his with mine. The trick was to get this conversation clicking and moving, and for me to believe that I had him. Because at the end of the scene, I do a wicked little smile. ‘I got you. I rolled you up and I got you.’”

Raxil and Crichton both found what they wanted by the end of the episode, so it was sort of a draw. In FARSCAPE’s first season, Buller played a much more threatening but mysterious character. The bone-eating M’Lee of “Bone To Be Wild,” turned out not to be an enemy. Buller recalled, “M’Lee I thought was incredible, the makeup, the prosthetics, because it looks amazing. But the head piece was so heavy, within forty minutes your head was screaming to get it off. In fact I had a conversation with Wayne Pygram that episode. Both of us were thinking, on FARSCAPE you really have to psych yourself up. You really have to get in good shape, because the costume demands that you are on top of it. The other thing about that costume was that I actually wasn’t aware of the effect for a long time. I would say a line, and while saying a line, I was aware that things were happening to my body. The spikes were going up. I wasn’t actually aware of the complete effect until ADR, when I saw that scene.”

In season two, David Kemper wrote the character of ro-NA for Buller. Ro-NA was a servant who seemed completely trustworthy but was not, in the “Look At The Princess” trilogy. In completely different makeup, and with a squeaky little voice, Buller played someone the opposite of M’Lee. Ro-NA did betray Crichton. Said Buller, “I had to get across the fact that you did not know it was this person. So this is a very creepy little thing, which is what the voice indicates. Then when you see her with Scorpius, I want the audience to go, ‘Oh my God.’ Obviously as the scene progresses she gets more and more ugly, and her voices changes, and becomes more and more hysterical. That was my journey.”

This episode brought Buller into the special effects of the FARSCAPE world. Buller recalled, “That scene really introduced me to the world of pyrotechnics and the world of explosions – very scary. I’d never been in that environment before, where literally bells are ringing, everybody is on alert because of what could go wrong. Just finding that journey and not being phased by the explosions, not being worried as a performer, was an amazing experience to go through.”

Ro-NA did not survive. M’Lee is off munching on Peacekeepers somewhere, and Raxil has gotten away with what she wanted. But Buller would love to come back to FARSCAPE in any incarnation. For one thing, she loves working with her husband. She said, “I find it very sexy, very vibrant, very, very, exciting, because I’m incredibly proud of this man. I find that as an actor, I’m in a front row seat. I’m watching him going, ‘Oh God, honey, wow.’ So I have all that on one level. The other level I have, ‘My character does this…’ That’s great, because as two actors we get to play together. It’s not often we get to play together. These episodes have been wonderful because we get to be in the same scene. We have fun.”

Buller, a classically trained actor who her husband proudly calls “the real deal” is not bothered by the prosthetics and makeup. She said, “I love playing different characters. I love different looks. I know some actors come on and they get freaked out by the prosthetics. I love that side of it.”

She added, “Sometimes I wonder, can I do something else? Can I do something different? Can I trick the audience again? As you know, the audience are incredibly enlightened. They follow the show, they know who I am, and they do their homework. So I’m thinking, ‘How can I come to the table yet again, with something new?’ That’s my job. I have to try and think of ways of stirring the pot.”

It is certainly true that FARSCAPE fans know who Francesca Buller is, and they welcomed her to the official FARSCAPE convention in Burbank last year. It would come as no surprise to see her again in season four, but who knows what or whom she will be playing?

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.

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