More Than A Love Slave
It's not easy being a stunning nymphomaniac. At least, it's not easy if you're Lexx's Xev - an uppity woman transformed into a love slave as punishment for being a disobedient wife. Strong (because she's part cluster lizard) and smart (because the transformation didn't erase her personality), Xev is stuck on a spaceship with a cyborg head that lusts for her, a captain who bores her, and an extremely attractive former warrior who has only one flaw as a mate...he's dead.
"You have to know that this is a fun part," said Xenia Seeberg, the German-born actress who plays Xev. "Everything sounds much crazier than it actually is. OK, she was transformed into a love slave from an ugly girl that refused to marry her 12-year-old husband, but when I took the part I decided right away I didn't want just to play up the love slave aspect. There's many episodes where it's all about her extra strength, since she's also part cluster lizard. In a way she's like a warrior, a good fighter, and she's very human."
"It's pretty far from my own personality!" the actress added quickly. "You have to get a feeling for what's needed on the show. Since it's a comedy, you can't be very narrow-minded. I decided right away that she needed to have a certain kind of warmth and a greater personality than just being a brainless nymphomaniac."
She's Gotta Have It
Though Lexx premiered in the U.S. just two weeks ago on the Sci-Fi Channel, the show has been running for nearly two seasons in Europe. In Los Angeles last week to do publicity, Seeberg reflected on the difficulty of those early episodes, where she took over the part from actress Eva Habermann.
"The producer sent me the first episodes and asked me for my opinions. They were looking for someone to replace the other girl. They wanted to find someone with a sharp sense of humor. I said, 'Well, I would like to make a few changes, but I could imagine doing this.'"
The transition between actresses takes place during the episode "Lyekka," where the old Xev "pretty much melts into some kind of ugly goo, and the alien uses the protein to create me. I'm just leftover protein from the old girl!" However, Sci-Fi elected to kick off the series with Seeberg's first episode, 'Nook,' so it may be rather confusing for viewers to figure out why Xev looks so different in the first few episodes.
"They should have started with 'Mantrid' and 'Terminal,' that's the order," noted the actress. "I think they just did it to introduce me as the main character, so that was kind of nice. The character goes through quite a process. When you see my 'birth' episode, you will get the impression that this was a real birth. She almost appears to be innocent, but since this protein from before is still there, she has all that in her genes. She's growing faster than a child, but it is a pretty big development."
Of the episodes that are going to air this season in the U.S., Seeberg's favorite is the songfest "Brigadoom." She laughed, "We did a musical. That might sound totally ridiculous, but it was great. I love singing anyway - in Germany I sang opera. We do have fun."
"It's actually not that hard to think and feel like Xev," added the actress. "She's very human. The show is about basically these three people trying to fulfill their needs. Since most people don't talk about those, it sounds very nasty, but it's very human. Brian Downey says, 'I'm just looking for a crazy nymphomaniac planet, I didn't have any sex in ages' - it's not the usual thing you hear on TV, but it's probably what most people think in their own private rooms. Just things that happen in real life, we'll pick them up and use them, and we don't pretend that they're not there."
"What is very characteristic about the characters of Lexx is that we're way more human than most aliens out in space on television. We're total anti-heroes. We're never trying to save the universe or save other planets - we are not very glorious!" she laughed.
Seeberg explained that while it was difficult to join an established cast, the group quickly bonded. "We all get along with each other very, very well. Brian Downey is such a great person. When I came in, he was very supportive. And Michael is in his heart a theater actor. I don't really know how he got into science fiction, but he's a fabulous dead guy. In real life, being quite alive, he's very nice."
Does Xev ever fulfill her wish to get it on with Kai? "I can't tell you that!" exclaimed the actress, scandalized. "It's unpredictable, so you never know!" She did point out that there is considerably less sex on the series than the hype might lead one to expect. "In 'Nook' you have a few massage scenes, but that is about it. Not all episodes are funny, but it does have a dark sense of humor. The show never gets really wild, though."
In Marlene's Footsteps
A joint Canadian-German production, Lexx shoots most of the year in Halifax, but has gone on location all over the world. "Nook," for example, was shot in Berlin, while most of the outdoor scenes were filmed in Namibia. "It's very nice to do location shooting," said Seeberg, who enjoyed getting to travel to Africa. "We filmed in Berlin in the old Marlene Dietrich studios, which was very exciting. They were built in the '20s, which was so amazing."
Seeberg's decision to become an actress has its roots in German theatrical history as well. "My grandmother's cousin was an actress in the '20s and '30s in Berlin, and when I was four years old, she was eighty-six. For some reason she kept telling me I would follow in her footsteps and I would become an actress. It's such a silly story, but it's actually true. It's very strange. I had great respect for this woman. It was shortly before she died. She told me what I would be, and it got stuck in my mind, and ever since, I wanted to."
Seeberg did theater in Geldern, the small town on the Dutch border where she grew up. "Since my parents didn't really want me to become an actress, I started studying first. My father always said, 'You have to study philosophy and Latin.' I loved Latin at school, that was my first foreign language, but still I knew I wanted to become an actress."
She did a few movies and other TV series in Germany, including the films Hilda Humphrey and Talking Feet. In addition, she worked as a dancer and model, and cut a record deal with EMI-Cologne. A student at both the Actor's Studio in New York and the Lee Strasberg school in Los Angeles, Seeberg also got very classical German theater training. "It is so, so different - everything is so much bigger, the characters are way more extreme," she recalled. "It may sound ridiculous, but even playing a love slave on a science fiction show is not as extreme as playing a musical, or Hansel and Gretel onstage. Therefore, it was difficult at first to really tamp down on everything I knew about theater."
Though she was never a big fantasy fan, "there's certain things I really love. Blade Runner is still one of my favorite movies. Babylon 5. I just recently watched the old Jane Fonda movie Barbarella, and it's not only cute, it's really great for the time that they shot it. This was done in the '60s! It's so funky and funny."
Seeberg contributed to Xev's appearance and development following her acceptance of the role. "Most people say, why did you choose to have this terrible red hair?" she laughed. "I said, well, the only chance I will succeed in this part is if I never try to copy what the previous actress did, because that never works. You have to be totally different and very strong, which was a little easier because she melted. It's not as if one day she was there and the next day it was me!"
"I didn't want to replace a blonde girl with another blonde girl, I wanted the look to be a little more edgy. Red hair is very special - some people love it and other people just hate it. I want to show that I can play the character well, and if people get convinced of that, they might just as well accept the way I look." Visible now in the more than 60 countries where the series airs, she does her own dubbing in German as well, so people will recognize her voice.
The actress worries a bit that fans that meet her might be disappointed because she's so different from Xev. "I look totally different, I have long blonde hair and don't really dress like a love slave! That's pretty far from my own personality, except that I have a very free sense of humor. I'm not afraid of playing something like this because I know who I am, and I know I'm not only that. Since I already did very serious drama, it's good to show the opposite. If people here get to see me in this at first, hopefully I'll get the chance to prove that I can be otherwise."
Attending a convention in London last year, the actress was astounded to discover that she and Xev already had a cult following. "It was so funny how many of the girls showed up, our fans, they cut their hair and it was red. It was just unbelievable!"
She is very grateful for the fan feedback, though she can no longer handle all her own mail. "It's a total cult series, you either hate it or you love it. There's nobody who says 'It's a nice series' because it is not a nice series! It's very extreme. I think it's nice to see what people really think about the character and the show. It's amazing how much they interpret, how much is really in the fans' minds. Of course, it's always nice if people appreciate our work. I always appreciate it if I get fan mail."
In Los Angeles for a Sci-Fi press conference, Seeberg sighed, "I'd love to move here. Still, it's very difficult for a German actor to get established in the U.S. I'll give it a try, I'll stay here for awhile. I hope I will never get stuck in one media. I think that's really hard on actors. They get a stamp on their forehead, so people will only see them in that category. I always try to do the total opposite of what I just did. That's what I need to do for myself, too, to stay interested."
"I'm lucky in that my job is my hobby, or my hobby is my job - I think I have the most wonderful job, although it's also one of the toughest," she added. "There's one other thing which started in my teenage years: I started writing little poems. I stopped for awhile, but not too long ago I started doing it again. So far it's only for myself, short stories, it's not so much poems anymore - it's too early for me to say if I'd write a screenplay, but there is a chance."
Right now, most of her energy goes into her acting. "I get asked a lot what advice I could give girls who want to become an actress; they think you just have to be pretty, since people know I have a modeling background they think that that is enough. I always say, no, you have to have good training, and for me it's very important to always stay focused on what you really want to achieve. Never stop learning. That's what I truly believe, that this is a job where work constantly will continue."
Has she learned anything from Xev? Surprisingly, Seeberg said she has. "What I learned from the series is that you can never take yourself too seriously. I think that's a good thing to learn for life, not to take yourself too seriously. It's not worth it. You have to have a certain sense of humor. Just stay open to any kind of criticism and critique and learn...and move on."