By: Amrie Cunningham (My Take on TV)
The summer of interviews continued this week as I got some time to chat with the disarmingly beautiful and incredibly down to earth Karen Cliche (pronounced CLEESH), who plays Baylin on Sci-Fi’s newest action adventure series, FLASH GORDON. She had so much great stuff to say about her cast, her character, her support for women’s issues, and her love for a certain classic TV show.
Amrie: Hey Karen – we’re so excited about the premiere of Flash Gordon!
Karen: There’s a lot of excitement buzzing. It’s so cool.
What about Flash Gordon made you want about to be a part of it? Had you seen a script?
Actually I knew nothing about it. I had heard about it through the years, but I didn’t know much about Flash Gordon in general. I wasn’t a huge fan but then my agent brought it up. I knew one of the head writers, James Thorpe, who had written on a couple of the series I had done. He had put in a good word for me so when the role came out, when I auditioned, I just loved it…a lot of the roles I’ve played, I’ve played a man, I’ve played a mutant, I’ve played a vampire….when the opportunity came to play the alien, the physicality to her, she was a tough girl, strong woman. That’s just ideal for me. I really wanted to play her. I thought, what a challenge to play an alien bounty hunter from Mongo. Who gets the opportunity to play this? I was very excited about it.
What does the viewer need to know about Baylin going in?
In the pilot, I come in the last 10-15 minutes. You’re introduced to Baylin in a very in your face, strong kind of way. She comes to Earth on an assignment from Ming to get Aura back to Mongo. She doesn’t care about Earth. She ends up stuck on Earth and befriends Flash and becomes part of their team and so she’s just a really strong independent, unapologetically strong woman. It’s how she is, not because it’s a put on or she tries to be. It’s just because that’s the way that she is. Her parents died when she was very young. She’s been on her own for a long time. She’s been self sufficient her whole life. When she is confident and strong and independent, she’s not trying to be. That’s the way she’s known how to survive all her live. When you’re introduced to Baylin, it’s like a kick ass tough girl and then throughout the episode, you get to feel a little more about her. She sort of has a sense of humor, I think. Maybe she’s funny because of her mannerisms. She doesn’t really know how to be politically correct. You learn more about her throughout. We just shot an episode, 8 or 9, you really find out what it is that happened to her in her life. I think people will really appreciate finding that out about her and it will give her a whole other level. She doesn’t breakdown. It doesn’t destroy her. You just understand her a little bit more. It just makes you love her even more. People are going to love her because she’s just this strong kick ass woman, but then once you learn a little more about her life story, it adds a whole other element to her.
Do you have a lot of fun on set? Is it a good working environment?
Oh my god. Eric is so fantastic as our leading man. He has a great attitude, he’s just so funny. We laugh a lot. It’s a great family going here. When you’re doing a series for 8-9 months, it’s really important to be comfortable at work and to have fun, because those are long days. We’re so lucky to have a great team together. I’ve been really lucky in the series that I’ve done where the cast and crew has been unbelievable. But I can only imagine if there was one bad apple in the bunch, how it would affect anybody’s performance, and spirit. Oh we don’t have any of that.
How does it compare to other series that you’ve done?
I’ve been really lucky. Mutant X was a great experience for me because Vicky Pratt and I just had a great time. She’s one of the most amazing women I’ve ever met. And I met my husband on the show, so that’s good! It’s been great. A lot of the shows, I’m kind of the action girl, I work a lot with men, and that’s just a great vibe. They see me as one of the boys. It’s been really fun for me. I love being treated like an equal.
What made you want to become an actress? I know you kind of stumbled into modeling, so to speak…what made the decision for you to devote time to acting?
Oh you know you hear in the business “model-turned-actress-Karen”. But the truth is, I wanted to be an actress since I was really young. I remember practicing the Oscar speech in the mirror when I was 5 or 6 years old . I did it all through high school, I won highest achievement awards at graduation. Did that all through high school and that was my goal. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. This business really is a farfetched dream. You go “nah, that’s impossible” and you move onto more realistic ambitions so I went onto psychology and then at the same time, I was modeling. I started traveling. I left university and I just realized that world is so big, and there are so many opportunities and if I’m not going to be brave in my life, then why am I living it? I started to pursue acting, and it happened pretty fast and started working out. Once it started happening, and I was very comfortable in this environment, I put all my energies towards it and it really paid off.
You’ve worked with a lot of people – who have been your favorites? Who would you work with again?
I really had a great time on Adventure, Inc. with Michael Biehn. He’s a blast, I love him to death. On Youngblades, Bruce Boxleitner, he was absolutely great, so I would work with him in a second. And of course, every other actor that I’ve worked with has been fantastic. Anyone who I can have fun with and we can laugh and joke around, and be professional and work great. I’ll snap that up in a second.
Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years?
Wow…you know, depending on how long a series is going to go, you can only hope for a long run. I definitely think in a few years I want to start having babies, so my life’s going to change a bit with that goal in mind. I definitely want to start having a family in a few years and maybe take a little time off. I do want to spend some time at home with my kid. Ideally I want two. I would probably take a bit of a break. Start up, do some really cool projects. Maybe in 10 years I’ll want to open a little wine bar with my husband. I really want to keep it open. There’s so many things I want to do in my life. I’ve never been one of those people who just single minded. I want this, that’s all I can see in my life. I’m totally open to that but I want my life to be full of other things. In 15 years, I may not even be doing this any more. I’ll just, as long as it’s fun, as long as it’s still cool and I can get great roles, that’s all that matters to me.
What other shows do you want when you have downtime?
Right now I don’t watch anything, haha, I’ve been in some forest in Mongo for the past three months ha, but I really love Grey’s Anatomy. I just got into it about a year and a half ago. We rented all the DVDs and my husband and I just sat there for like 6 days straight. Did not leave the house. Watched Grey’s Anatomy top to bottom. I love that show. I also like talent shows. I don’t like reality shows, the trashy ones. I really like American idol and SYTYCD. I’m not a dancer, and I’m not singer, oh God, I’m definitely not a singer, but I just love shows that showcase people’s talents. I love talented people! That’s really what I’ll spend my time watching TV on. Do you wanna know what my fave show of all time is? Golden Girls.
[Here’s where we get all fan-girl on each other and start geeking about Bea Arthur and her gang]
No way! I watch Golden Girls in reruns all the time, whenever it’s on!
I’m obsessed with GG. I have all the episodes on DVD!
That’s amazing – I love that show.
The last season just came out on DVD so you should go get it.
I don’t talk to anyone else who watches it as religiously as I do – that’s so funny. It’s one of those things that I pull out at parties “oh I watch Golden Girls”…
And then everyone just gets really silent and goes “oh yeah that’s a funny show” and they don’t expect it to come out of your mouth. It’s a brilliant show!
[As we recover from our laughter]
What else do you like to do in your free time? I know you’ve said you’ve been in the jungles of Mongo haha…
My husband and I love taking long walks. I could walk for hours. Vancouver’s such a beautiful city that when I’m here, I love to walk along the city wall. I have two cats and I’m obsessed with them. I love spending time with them. I just roll around playing with them. It’s really normal stuff. It’s nothing crazy, like skydiving. I like to have a normal life, clean the house, cook, read recipe books. It’s really boring. It’s not that exciting. Because I live such an exciting high paced life, that my downtime really needs to be as normal as possible, because that’s where the balance is.
Is there anything else that you would want readers to know about you?
The one thing that I like to always talk about it, has to do with the fact that a lot of my fans are young women. I play such strong sexy female characters, you’d think that the fan base would be guys. It’s young girls who think that the characters I play are really cool, and role models, and to me that’s really important. I am a feminist, equalist at heart. I support a lot of charities, I sponsor two girls in Asia. I like to concentrate on the areas of the world where women are exploited and are in danger of sexual exploitation and slavery. I really do a lot of work on my downtime. I read up on that, and try to put it out there as much as I can and educate people about the status of women in the world. We think, living in North America “oh ya know everything’s fine” but it’s not. It’s a lot of trouble that women still go through in the world. We need to change. If I can do anything to put that word out there, then I really love to speak on that topic. It’s really a problem that needs to be addressed. You want to mention a great organization, one that I love, it’s called equality.org and it’s a fantastic women’s organization. They fight the great fight.
What would be the one thing that you want to tell a new viewer of the show, to get them involved?
I really do think people will love the show. First, people are going to be “oh it’s going to be only sci-fi” but no, no, no, the beauty of it is, across the board, there’s going to be something for everybody in this. There’s a little less spaceship sci-fi stuff, but we still have most of our episodes on Mongo. The people who love that aspect will be satisfied. You have the sci-fi, and the special effects, and the different creatures. You have that, and you have the relationships between the characters, who are wonderfully acted by our cast. Everybody can relate to that feeling of “I still have feelings for my exboyfriend but I can’t and oh I’m engaged to someone else.” There’s feeling of longing for Flash’s father. Everyone can find something in the show that they can relate to and I think that they’ll just fall in love with the characters. And the storylines and the really cool effects and what happens on Mongo and the parallels between earth and Mongo and I just think that everybody’s going to find something that they want, whether you’re a sci-fi fan or not. It’s going to be a brand new audience. Good talking to you, it was a lot of fun!
All in all, a really lovely woman, who is sure to make a splash! Be sure to watch the premiere of Sci Fi’s original series FLASH GORDON, premiering August 10 at 10PM (check your local listings).
In Other News
I hope you have all been watching Shark Week!!! Discovery’s 20th Anniversary of one of the most innovative “week” themes on television right now was an amazing celebration of the beautiful and dangerous creatures from the deep blue. Some of the footage they got in their continued effort to provide the most all-around shark coverage ever seen is mind-blowing. I can’t imagine getting as close to the beasts as some of the camera people have been. It’s scary and intense, and intriguing at the same time!
I hope you’re watching my good friend Clark Duke on ABC Family’s adorable show “Greek”. He is spot on, and always hilarious as the religious roommate of the main character. He’s simply perfection…”PURITY PLEDGE, ACTIVATE”
Anticipation of the fall season has me a bit mind-frakked. There’s so much good stuff going on – I’ve got two front runners for your favorite new fall series. Pushing Daisies is going to knock your socks off – visit our friends at www.thepiemaker.com to learn a little bit about the show before it premieres in October. And Chuck is just so good; Zachary Levi is just so relatable, I know you’re all going to be fans!
Lastly, and un-tv-relatedly, I beg you to go see Hairspray. I finally saw it this weekend, and I’m going again with my mom and my sister tomorrow. I’ve been listening to the soundtrack nonstop for days. It’s worth the million dollars that movie theatres are charging these days!
Hope you’re all well. Feedback is fabulous – firstname.lastname@example.org or mytakeontv on AIM!