Today I’m talking to actress Mira Furlan who you probably know from LOST, Babylon 5 or one of the many other highlights from her substantial and varied career! Now she is promoting Space Command which is a space adventure kickstarter project that’s being helmed by Marc Scott Zicree, is filled with many massive sci-fi stars and has the support of Neil Gaiman, Damon Lindelof and Guillemro del Toro! It’s all very exciting so be sure to read on for our chat…
Hello and thank you for taking the time out to do this interview with me today. I hope you are well?
It’s my pleasure. When Marc approached me a while ago and told me he had written a role for me, I was delighted. It doesn’t happen often in an actor’s life.
Could you first just tell us a little about the film and your role within it? About what attracted you to the role?
Von Odara is a strong, interesting, independent and free thinking woman, a person not bound by convention or fear. She is able to see “the big picture” and is willing to align herself with the unpopular beliefs if those are the ones she holds true and worth fighting for. She is ready to risk everything, including her own life, for what she believes in. In today’s world where independent thought seems to have been abolished by the frantic need to be popular and to be “liked” (on Facebook and elsewhere), a character like Odara is a rarity and should be a role model.
Science fiction offers fresh, interesting, sometimes even radical ideas about the world and about our future. It deals with big questions and important themes . Also, it’s worth noting that the most complex female characters reside in that particular genre. As if “reality” doesn’t need strong women, they are allowed to exist only in science fiction. Which is not a particularly uplifting thought when you’re a woman. And, even worse, an actress.
And what does Space Command bring to us which we should be excited about?
It brings us a multi-generational saga, it brings us fascinating characters, an engaging story and ideas that will make us think about our world and hope for a better one.
How is it working on a project that was funded on kick-starter? Does it make a difference to you on set, or is it just like a normal shoot?
The shooting experience so far was very positive. It all seemed “normal” and very professional. I’m in awe of Marc and Elaine for managing to pull this off. It’s truly been a “labor of love” and I’m very pleased to be a part of it.
Theatre is the most Buddhist art in the sense that it stops existing as soon as it’s born, so to speak. There is beauty and wisdom in it…
Here you are working with a number of people you have worked with in the past such as Marc Scott Zicree and Bill Mumy, and in the past you’ve also been directed both on stage and in Babylon 5 by your husband Goran Gajić, do close relationships such as these change and shape the work which you produce on projects?
I’ve never really worked with Marc, so this is a new and wonderful experience. We crossed paths on Babylon 5 but never actively worked together. With Bill Mumy it’s a different story. I loved him as an acting partner. He was giving, generous, ultra professional and he always made me laugh which is priceless. We stayed friends after the show ended, which is a rarity. And he’s not the only one. I’ve stayed friends with Claudia, Pat, Peter, Jason, Andrea. We care about each other and try to help each other. It’s pretty amazing in this industry where selfishness rules, accompanied closely by a very short memory and a complete lack of loyalty.
Do you find yourself drawn to work where you have pre-existing relationships with cast and crew?
I don’t search it out, but I’m always happy when I can work with old friends. There is much less insecurity, less need for explaining things. We have the same reference points which makes work easier and more pleasant. On this project, however, I had a chance to meet some new people and share the stage with some outstanding actors, such as the wonderful Robert Picardo and the mesmerizing Doug Jones. My daughter is played by the gifted Jelena Mrdja. What a lovely company!
It sounds very exciting! Of course you have also worked with Bill Mumy in a separate field when you collaborated together with the band The Be Five, how did working in that environment with actors differ from being on a film set?
I’m always happy to be invited to make music and Billy is an enormously talented musician. We had a lot of fun working on that record. I also made my own record (excuse me for being old fashioned!) called “Songs From Movies That Have Never Been Made”. Nowadays I mainly sing under my shower.
I was wondering if I could pick up on a point which was raised in an interview with you a few years ago. You briefly talked about the potential longevity of acting within recorded mediums such as film and television compared to theatre where, by its nature, nothing lasts in a physical sense at least. Considering that you have worked in a real variety of mediums including theatre, music and writing, on top of film and television do you find that you think about the nature of the works permanence or transience?
Are you particularly attracted to either recorded work or something less fixed like theatre?
Theatre is the most Buddhist art in the sense that it stops existing as soon as it’s born, so to speak. There is beauty and wisdom in it. Of course, we humans have a strong desire to defy death, so we’ve invented ways to “live forever” through our recorded work. But ultimately, everything will be lost. And, to quote an anonymous source, “nobody will give a shit in the end.” If we could only take ourselves a little bit less seriously, we would all be much happier.
That’s a good answer! And do all of these different practices inform each other for you? Or are they very separate areas of work?
I feel they’re all the same. It’s all a continuous search for truth, nothing else. The paths a little bit different, but not that much, as a matter of fact.
…at times I feel much closer to my cat, peacefully sleeping in my lap, than to a human in a tank, shooting at other humans for some big patriotic, holy or unholy cause…
Within your work both on stage and on film you appear to be consciously returning to Europe in order to work both there and in the US, is that a deliberate decision on your part?
What is “deliberate” in an actor’s life? To me it all seems very random. But yes, I like working in Europe on independent films. And I like going back to what used to be my country. I need to change locations to feel sane, I guess.
Last year you tweeted ‘Always seen myself as traveller. Got used to that “identity”. But identities are tricky, they change constantly. Am I still a traveller?’, do you regard yourself as being an American? As being Croatian? And how does your identity feed into your work in different places?
I regard myself only as human. That’s the tribe I feel I belong to. Although, sometimes, I feel I should widen it up a bit – at times I feel much closer to my cat, peacefully sleeping in my lap, than to a human in a tank, shooting at other humans for some big patriotic, holy or unholy cause. In fact, very often I do feel completely foreign to the human agenda which seems to be nothing but self-annihilation.
If I’m not mistaken you are currently working on your autobiography, will that discuss your relationship to different countries at all? In particular will it detail your time in Yugoslavia and the circumstances around you leaving it?
I’ve been working on that project for many years. I’m in the finishing phase. It will include all of the above. And more. I’ve been writing it with an American reader in mind. I feel the need to create that bridge between my many identities. If for no other reason, than just to try to understand myself better.
Thank you for taking the time to speak to me today. My last question is in regards to the future of your career; is there something that you would really like to explore at some point in the future which you currently have been unable to do, whether that is in acting, writing or any other medium?
Who knows what the future brings. I’d love to write more. My play Till Death Do Us Part has had a lot of success in my former country. So did my book of essays. Writing makes me (somewhat) sane. It’s a solitary discipline and I appreciate this aspect more and more as I age. But if a great role in an interesting project comes along, I’d be delighted.
Fantastic, thank you!
And that’s that! I hope you enjoyed reading this interview, I know I had a blast with it. Are you interested in Space Command? Do you love Mira Furlan’s work? Regardless of what you want to talk about make sure you leave a comment in the box below!