She's the title star of Andromeda and the sexiest starship in the galaxy. Michelle Erica Green talks to Lexa Doig about corsets and jelly boobs.
Technology is sexy. It's true. And no, we're not talking about all those smooth, shiny, and occasionally slinky items to be found pouting for your cash on the shelves of your local Dixons. We're talking about Lexa Doig, the very physical form of the only starship in the cosmos with artificial breasts to match her artificial intelligence. As the title character of Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda, Doig proves that gigabytes can jiggle, too.
"My dad, who's a sci-fi fan, said, 'Is it absolutely necessary from a logical perspective for an A.I. to have such a low cut top?'" laughs Doig. "I'm the first spaceship with jelly boobs! Which I've stopped wearing because they're too damn heavy and they hurt my shoulders. I was watching Voyager a while ago, looking at Seven-of-Nine, and I thought, 'That is an impossible body!' She wears a corset to make her into a Barbie doll. And God bless her, because how uncomfortable that must be?"
Not that Doig is a stranger to suffering for her art in undergarments. One of Andromeda's innumerable early costume switches also called for some lacing up. "I asked whether there was a way to find a comfortable corset. They brought in a fetish designer, who is a lovely woman, and she had this very thin corset that didn't look so bad. She planted her foot in the small of my back to lace it up and she told me what it was doing to my anatomy as she tightened it. All of a sudden I had this pot belly that I never had before. She said, 'That would be your lower intestines and bladder; your kidneys become skewed, your liver goes down into your back. It rearranges you internal anatomy.' Oh my god! I managed to turn them off of the idea when I showed them my little pot belly. Bad, bad, bad."
A petite brunette who gets her exotic, hormone troubling looks from her Scottish and Filipino heritage, Doig may be the first actress ever screen-tested to make sure she had chemistry with herself. She found herself playing a scene where Andromeda's three manifestations -- the computer personality of the Andromeda Ascendant, the ship's holographic interface and android avatar Rommie -- have an argument with each other. "I was all of the characters -- I had to do the audition three times in a row," she laughs. "Andromeda was described to me as having a benevolent case of multiple personality disorder. But I like the challenge. It kept me on my toes."
And you sense that Doig is having a ball being a starship -- especially a starship that can operate as a humanoid, detached from the central computer. Her multiple manifestations enable Andromeda to fix her own machinery, beat up bad guys and even watch Captain Dylan Hunt (Kevin Sorbo) step naked from the shower. "The flipside, of course, is that I can be turned off."
Ironically, though, after Doig auditioned for the part for which she was eventually cast, the producers asked her back to read for the role of tough, sarcastic first officer Beka Valentine. As eventually played by Lisa Ryder, Valentine's muscular frame and cool blonde demeanour are a fry cry from Doig's softer, more delicate presence. "I didn't see myself playing Beka," confesses the actress. "I think she's a terrific character, but physically I didn't think I was right for it." Still, she read with Sorbo in character as Beka, "in the tallest pair of boots I had, with platform heels and toes. And I was still about eye-to-navel. When you see shots of Kevin and me standing next to each other, it looks silly. At least they can stretch Andromeda's holographic persona -- they can make me any size they want!"
Doig mostly interacts with her fellow cast members as Rommie, the humanoid body designed by engineer Harper (Gordon Michael Woolvett) to be able to leave the ship. The engineer harbors hopes that she will fulfill his sweaty fantasies as she explores her humanity, though Rommie makes has made it quite clear that she's not interested. "He was stupid enough to create her and hope that she would want him," says co-star Woolvett, who Doig has actually known for years. "I think there way be some bittersweet romance coming up for Rommie, though. When a warship falls in love, it can be a very scary thing."
A far cry from the time that Doig became surely one of the few thesps ever told to take the personality out of her performance. The scripts for premiere episodes "Under the Night" and "An Affirming Flame" originally gave Andromeda a vivacious personality, but the writers decided -- after the scripts had been shot, naturally -- that it would make sense if she only began to show emotions when Harper had built the android body. "So we had to go back and reshoot to take the personality out, and I had to loop everything. I cringe every time I watch, because everything about my performance in the first two episodes is completely manufactured. There's nothing organic or creative about it," she sighs.
Because she often appears on a viewscreen or as a hologram, many of Doig's scenes can be filmed without other characters present. "They shoot the coverage of everybody else, then they shoot the coverage of me. We have this enormous green screen that goes all the way up the wall and across the floor, which is where we shoot a lot of the hologram stuff where size is an issue," she explains. "More often than not, all the actors have wrapped by the time they.