She's a sentient starship with emotions, but the extent of her programming hasn't really been explored". We meet the lovely female form of the starship Andromeda, Lexa Doig
Since humans first began venturing out into the open seas, and then further into Outer Space, captains and their ships have always shared a special bond. This is true in real life and on tv. Remember classic Star Trek? Even the sexiest of intergalactic gals could not come between Captain James T Kirk and the USS Enterprise.
On Gene Roddenberry's newest Science Fiction series Andromeda, Captain Dylan Hunt is equally fond of his vessel, the Andromeda Ascendant. However, their relationship is a unique one. The reason being his ship is, in fact, alive. Andromeda (or Rommie, as she is nicknamed) is a sentient being equipped with a female artificial intelligence (AI) entity that allows her to see, hear and talk to Captain Hunt (Kevin Sorbo) and his crew. She does so in a number of different ways, which makes playing her all the more fun for Canadian actress Lexa Doig.
Lexa Doig's Three Bodies
"Instead of just hearing Rommie's voice, the crew is able to interact with a hologram as well as the AI, which is a video image on a screen," she explains. "Each of her incarnations have slightly different personalities. For example, the AI is very dry and more or less spits out information. The hologram is what you often see in battle sequences, so she's more aggressive and, let's say, saucy," laughs Doig. "I think of the hologram as the middle sister, whereas the AI is the old one, someone who is very calm and logical
"In our third episode, To Loose the Fatefu Lightning, Rommie is given humanoid form. This version of her is, perhap the most 'human' of them all She can now physically in teract with the crew, in particular Dylan Hunt, and begins to develop feelings that she doesn't quite understand and must learn to control. The humanoid Rommie also retains the programming of her Other selves, which makes her the 'full embodiment' of the character. As the show goes on we'll be able to see Andromeda's growth through each of her various incarnations, which I think is great."
When casting first began for Andromeda, Doig auditioned for the role of Andromeda. Not long after she received a callback, but this time the show's producers wanted her to read for the role of First Officer Beka Valentine. "To be honest with you, I never felt I was physically right for that part," says Doig. She and Lisa Ryder (who was ultimately chosen to play Valentine), along with several other actresses, flew to Los Angeles for the audition. When Doig got back home to Toronto, the show's producers phoned and offered her the part of Andromeda. "I was thrilled," she enthuses.
Shooting of the first Andromeda episode, D Minus Zero, began in May. At that time, Doig and Ryder were both still working on the feature film Jason X. Ryder was flying between coasts to do both projects, while Doig had to remain in Toronto to finish her scenes for the film. When production wrapped, she had two days to pack up her belongings and move to Vancouver where she made her dA©but as Andromeda Ascendant.
"Needless to say my introduction to the show was a bit hectic," says the actress. "They had to rearrange the shooting schedule for D Minus Zero so that all of Andromeda's scenes were lumped together. So I spent my entire first day in front of a green screen filming my material for that episode. Towards the end I was ready to start chewing on the clapper [board]. I get very punchy when I'm doing green screen for long periods of time.
First Day Nakedness
"My work on the next story, To Loose the Fatefull Lightening, got off to an equally memorable start. I hadn't received the entire script and was reading just the sides when I saw that Andromeda was naked in the fourth act. The neurotic actor-type that I am I thought, "Ok, wait a minute. I'm not walking around naked in front of the crew." I called Allan Eastman [executive producer] and he told me, "Don't worry, Lexa. We've hired a body double for you." Whew!
So I've had an interesting time right from the start playin Andromeda," continues Doig. "I'd have to say the most difficult part about the role is that I'm usually not in scenes with the other actors. That's because I'm saying my lines alone in front of a green screen and then I'm added into the shot later. I find that battle sequences can often be tough because I've got to maintain a certain level of energy, do you know what I mean? It's much easier to do that when you're in a roomful of people who are trying to do the same thing.
Part of the Process
"On the artistic side, it's tricky because I'm playing a character that, quite frankly, not everybody, including me, understands yet. She's a sentient starship with emotions but the extent of her programming hasn't really been explored. Of course, that will come over time. However, as an actor, you don't want to shoot yourself in the foot by showing your character in a certain light that the writers may later decide to change. Conversely, you don't want to hesitate doing something with your character that the writers could later decide is OK. So it's a real juggling act, and a process of discovery. The more I play Andromeda the more I get into her head, or should I say central processing unit," chuckles the actress.
Captain Dylan Hunt and the Andromeda Ascendant are the last surviving members of the Commonwealth, a government that once spanned three galaxies and embraced hundreds of alien cultures. In Andromeda's premiA¨re episode Under the Light, the Andromeda is attacked and ends up in a state of suspended animation on the event horizon of a black hole. Hunt and Rommie awaken three centuries later to find the Commonwealth in ruins and the universe in chaos. Hunt is determined to restore peace and order and needs Andromeda's help to do this.
Doing Anything for Hunt
"Andromeda will do anything for Hunt," says Doig. "I think it's safe to say that she has a little crush on him. However, she understands that Commonwealth protocol prohibits any sort of personal relationship between an AI and an organic sentient. So it's that sort of sad, unrequited situation where she's always wishing and hoping but never realizing. It's going to be interesting to see how their relationship develops because they are two working professionals. He is the last remaining human officer in Commonwealth's High Guard, but she's also an officer and took the same vows and oaths Hunt did. They both stand for what the Commonwealth stood for, so their mission is the same." In the show's second episode, An Affirpning Flame, the crew of the salvage ship Eureka Maru, led by Captain Beka Valentine, agrees to join forces with Hunt. Together they plan to restore the Commonwealth to its former glory, but first they must learn to get along each other. Even Andromeda must adjust to having strangers onboard.
"She really hasn't had much to do yet with Trance Gemini [Laura Bertram] and Rev Bem [Brent Stait], but the writers are planning to remedy this in a couple of upcoming stories," says the actress. "Initially, she wasn't too happy with Beka. It was a bit like, 'OK, there's another female on my ship but Rommie has gotten used to having her around. It's going to take a while longer before she can really trust Tyr Anasazi [Keith Hamilton Cobbl. She does, though, respect his strength as a Nietzschean warrior and realizes that she and Tyr are the two most powerful sentients on the ship. As for Harper [Gordon Michael Woolvett], he can be somewhat exasperating at times with his constant wisecracks. However, Rommie appreciates and cares very much for him, and as the ship's engineer he looks after her."
Behind the cameras, Doig confirms her relationships with fellow castmembers could not be better. "Lisa [Ryderl and I got on like a house on fire while we were filming Jason X. In that movie she played the android and I was the butt-kicking human, so at the end of the production we did the, 'Tag, your turn now,' bit. As for Gordon, I've known him for years. He and I worked together on a kid's show for YTV in Canada a long time ago.
"It's funny, but in one way or another everybody sort of suits their roles," she notes. "Brent Stait is very spiritual and, like his character of Rev Bem, has this gentle perspective on life and towards people. Laura Bertram is just amazing. Not only is she a marvelous actress, but also a perceptive person and very wise for her age. Keith Hamilton Cobb is Tyr, that's all I can say," laughs Doig, "and I just adore him. As for Kevin, he's the captain of our team. He keeps our spirits up and our minds focused. It's a great working environment, it truly is."
An accomplished film, stage and televisual performer, Andromeda is not Doig's first series. She had a recurring part on TekWar playing a computer cyberpunk named Cowgirl. The actress also co-starred as computer savvy CI5 agent Tina Backus on the action/adventure series The New Professionals.
"I was only 24 when I did The New Professionals," she says. "It was my biggest role up to that time and rather intimidating at first. However, it ended up being a terrific learning experience, not only for me as an actor but also a person. I was so lucky in that I worked mostly with Edward Wood- ward [Harry Malone]. He has been acting for such a long time and I enjoyed listening to him reminisce about the business.
"TekWar was also quite memorable for me," laughs Doig. "I walked out of the audition absolutely convinced I had blown it, and then my agent called to tell me I got the part. I was leaping around my parents' house and screaming at the top of my lungs. I knew then I'd chosen the right profession and I've never looked back since."