- Reprinted from TRICORDER Issue #7, the USS MAGELLAN newsletter - June 2004.
Interviewer:   Alan Anderton

The stated purpose of the new Canadian Fandom Forum is to foster interaction between Canadian SF & F fans and it was on there that I was privileged to make the acquaintance of MR MALCOLM XERXES. A man of strong convictions, wide experience in the entertainment industry and impeccable manners, I was pleasantly surprised when he consented to an exclusive on-line interview for Tricorder.

His on-line presence comes across as an urbane, cultured gentleman which is a counterpoint to the powerful physical presence evident from his photographs and performances. English born, he has studied drama from an early age and, as can be seen in his on-line resume, has “paid his dues” with stunt work and supporting roles in WITCHBLADE: THE SERIES, RELIC HUNTER & a recurring role in La Femme NIKITA. Principal roles range from DR. SHANE McKAY in teen fare DEGRASSI: THE NEXT GENERATION and OBERON in SHAKESPEAREVILLE to the main “Undead” character in horror blockbuster, RESIDENT EVIL: APOCALYPSE™!

The major role for him at the moment is the lead role in a new Canadian Science Fiction TV series FINNEGAN'S SQUAD. It all seems to be coming together for him right now with work in film, TV, theatre and drumming for the group ANOTHER 1000 MILES. Watch out for him at TORONTO TREK 18 where you can see sneak previews of FINNEGAN'S SQUAD and meet Malcolm on several of the Panels.

AA:   I notice in the “MX Bio” on your web site WWW.MALCOLMXERXES.COM that you were influenced by Nichelle Nichols when you were growing up. Star Trek certainly was a great influence in most of our lives, challenging and redefining our ideas of our society and its future. What Original Series episode stands out as a favourite? If you could choose any role, from and series or movie, which would you like to have tried out for?

MX:   Yes, MS. NICHELLE NICHOLS & MR. WILLIAM MARSHALL both were of tremendous comfort to me when I was a lad growing up in Manchester, watching STAR TREK™ on tele', not just because of their presence as blacks on the bridge of the U.S.S. ENTERPRISE, but because each performer carried themselves with dignity. The fact that both were very accomplished outside of the series meant a lot to me, also, since it let me know very early on that if I wanted to succeed as a working, professional actor whose flesh happens to be brown, that I would have to diversify in ways that my Caucasian contemporaries have not had to do in their own careers.

My studies of MR. WILLIAM SHATNER'S involvement with MR. GENE RODDENBERRY in the pre-production of STAR TREK™ have been of benefit in this regard, particularly when weighed against the Subjective Perception of that involvement by MR. GEORGE TAKEI, with whom I hope to be working on future episodes of FINNEGAN'S SQUAD™, if we can afford him. GARY DAVIDSON has written a character for MR. SHATNER to play, also, which would not upset me, either, for obvious reasons.

My favourite episode is STAR TREK ™: “THE GALILEO SEVEN”, as this story reflects the objective reality I experience in my daily professional & personal life: COMMANDER SPOCK is leading the away team, but he is constantly plagued & harassed by his crew in the form of insubordination that verges upon outright mutiny, this depite the fact that not only is he of superior rank to them, but he is the only one working actively to save all of their lives! Nobody wants to die, but he must “request” their assistance throughout the episode, rather than “ordering” them to help him, as CAPTIAIN KIRK would have been able to do.

The open bigotry & disrespect shown to COMMANDER SPOCK in “THE GALILEO SEVEN” was very like that shown to a character portrayed by MR. SIDNEY POITIER in a WWII film whose title eludes me for the moment, in which he plays a black N.C.O. who finds himself in command of an all-white platoon when all of its officers have been killed in action: his primary task is to fulfill the mission objective, but the racism he faces takes the form of insubordination, mutiny & attempted murder, all of which remind him that if his platoon is captured as Prisoners of War, the Caucasian lower ranks will be sure to receive better treatment than he from the racist Nazi soldiers, who might even tortune & kill him as the sole representative of an “an inferior race”.

My favourite episodes of the other series are as follows:

STAR TREK: THE ANIMATED SERIES ™ stood out to me because of the involvement of MR. LARRY NIVEN'S K'Zinti, which I thought to be a very clever interweaving of two different SF universes, something which I favour, given that I am a major advocate & enthusiast of the works of MESSRS. PHILIP JOSE FARMER &ALAN MOORE.

STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION: “THE EMISSARY”, largely on the basis of the excellent work done by MS. SUZIE PLAKSON in the role of K'EHLAHR.

STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE™: I am hard-pressed to recall a given title, but the work done by MESSRS. ANDREW J. ROBINSON, MARC ALAIMO & that bloke who portrays GENERAL MARTOK stand out as especially impressive & consistent, throughout the series.

STAR TREK: VOYAGER™: “BLOOD FEVER”, mainly because it addressed the very real problem of ship-board politics being affected by interspecies Lust, a concept that I think MR. HARLAN ELLISON would be very comfortably writing about in his own work.

ENTERPRISE™ is a series that I have not managed to stay on top of, for various reasons, so I have missed most of all 3 seasons to date, but the work of MS. JOLENE BLALOCK as SUMCOMMANDER T'POL has been consistently excellent from what I have seen however.

I'm not sure if your question is confined solely to the STAR TREK™ Universe, so I shall provide two answers, to be on the safe side: if I had been permitted to be auditioned for any role of my choice from any STAR TREK™ series or film, I would have chosen KHAN NOONIAN SIGNH, Q, CREWMAN DANIELS, & SOREN.

From the non-STAR TREK™ universe, I would have loved to get cast as BLADE™, SOLO™, as MICHEY in THE EQUALIZER™, as MARCUS in BABYLON 5™, as MICHAEL VAUGHN in ALIAS™, or as THE SILVER SURFER™, which would be the ultimate thrill for me, given that I am such a JACK KIRKBY fanboy.

AA:   We've talked about the impact of CGI on Film & TV before and there does not seem to be a movie made nowadays that does not have it's share of eye-popping, computer generated scenes. Recently I saw a comment by someone that the perceived poor performance of the actors in the last Star Wars movie (their opinion, not necessarily mine) could be because not only it must be hard for an actor to interact with an invisible, computer generated creature but also for actors to get convincing “group dynamics” going when they can only imagine what the scene will look like on screen from having no props or backgrounds. Have you had any experience with CGI? I know you have done stage theatre, could the same not be said of a play without props.

MX:   I'm glad you asked me about Computer Generated Imagery in Film/TV, since the last films I saw at the cinema, VAN HELSING™ & THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK™, respectively, relied quite heavily upon that technology. Both films were entertaining in & of themselves, but I found myself somewhat alienated from the action sequences because I was extremely aware of the camera trickery, whereas if the actors or stunt personnel had been in actual jeopardy, as SIR SEAN CONNERY was in THUNDERBALL™ during the shark sequence, then I would have found myself far more engaged as an audient/viewer.

However, I think that the person who commented that there were “poor performances” in STAR WARS: ATTACK OF THE CLONES™ was quite correct, although I think that he'she overstated the case, as I found that 2 key principal performances were so embarrassingly weak that I found myself laughing aloud at the cinema. While it is true that MR. LUCAS has always paid more attention to SFX than to the quality of the acting between his castmembers, I think that in the case of the film in question, those people who acted badly did so because they are bad actors, rather than because they worked opposite imaginary/green screen characters/backdrops.

I have had some experience of CGI, & find it to be quite a lot of fun, but I can understand why MR. LIAM NEESON found it daunting while working on STAR WARS: THE PHANTOM MENACE™, given that his background is Theatre, wherein much emphasis is placed upon rehearsal as a means of “finding the relationships between characters”, so he is far more dependent upon receiving direction than I would have been were I in his place. To my mind, working with CGI is no more difficult than Mime, whereby one pretends a set of properties & environment so convincingly that one's audience becomes convinced of the illusion, just as children do all over the world, on a daily basis.

AA:   Australia and New Zealand are enjoying a growth spurt in feature film production whilst only having a small local TV production industry. What do you think about the Canadian film industry? Am I mistaken in thinking that whilst Canadian TV production is going from strength to strength there seems to be no similar growth in the film industry?

MX:   The Australian/New Zealand Film/TV boom is very gratifying to behold, but the reality is that Hollywood neither knew nor cared that you lot existed until THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING™/THE 2 TOWERS™/THE RETURN OF THE KING™ came along, this despite such excellent fare as the work I grew up watching: SPYFORCE™, BONEY™ SKIPPY THE BUSH KANGAROO™, THE MAN FROM HONG KONG™, et cetera.

The Canadian Film Industry is the most timid business operation that I have ever seen, and does not get properly exploited unless foreigners bring their productions over from U.S.A., U.K., Germany, France, et cetera. The system has been set up in such a way that it is far easier for a non-Canadian to launch a series of international appear than it is for Canadians & Canadian residents to do so, which is why COUNTERSTRIKE™ & LA FEMME NIKITA™ succeeded so very well, and which is why people like MESSRS. CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER & WILLIAM SHATNER have been forced, along with MS. KATE NELLIGAN & MS. KIM CATTRALL, to emigrate to America in order to make their fortunes. Canada tends to reward talent & ambition with equal measures of apathy & discouragement, alas...

AA:   You mentioned a while ago that you were reading Robert Heinlein's “A Stranger in a Strange Land”, how did you go with that? I noticed in your “MX Bio” again that you cite Heinlein as one of your formative influences, any stand-out favourites?

MX:   I am very much a spiritual son of MR. ROBERT ANSON HEINLEIN, second only to MR. SPIDER ROBINSON himself, but I have not yet managed to make serious headway into the unabridged, uncensored, unbowdlerized edition of STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND™, owing to my current commitments to FINNEGAN'S SQUAD™, H20™, PERFECT STRANGERS™ & other projects. Of his works to date that I *have* read, FARNHAM'S FREEHOLD™ has been my favourite read, with THE PUPPET MASTERS™ as my favourite film adaptation of MR. HEINLEIN'S works.

AA:   Have you read his “Starship Troopers” and if so, what did you think of it's conversion to the big screen?

MX:   I got about halfway through STARSHIP TROOPERS™ before I put it down, as I found the film adaptation to be far superior, despite some questionable casting. I look forward to viewing STARSHIP TROOPERS 2™ particularly given that I have been given to understand that people whom I disliked from the first film shall be absent therefrom. I have heard numerous charges of “Fascism” in MR. HEINLINE's work, but I have yet to find any evidence to support such charges. If being aware of one's social responsibility makes one a “Fascist”, then I need to have myself measured for jodhpurs & jackboots!

AA:   You seem happy with your most recent major work in “Finnegan's Squad”, what would you say would be the highlights in it for you? From what I've read about it, it sounds character driven rather than being overly dependant on effects and action: can we expect intelligent plotlines?

MX:   I am very happy with FINNEGAN'S SQUAD™ for several reasons, one of which is that we are examining themese that were touched upon in MR. HEINLEIN'S own works & in such excellent, under-rated, televised fare as SPACE: ABOVE & BEYOND™ VR-5™, THE PRISONER™ & NOWHERE MAN™, so I can guarantee that viewers “can expect intelligent plotlines”. The characters are all so well-written that, were I not cast as FINN, I would be happy to play *any* other rose in FSQ™, especially the women's roles, which are sure to intrigue those of you who enjoy great shows such as FARSCAPE™, as I do. (When I finished typing this final response, I shall begin viewing Season 2 on VHS for the first time!) Any & all SFX will be subordinate to advancing Plot & revealing Character, as our primary mandate is that of clear storytelling.

Series Creator/Executive Producer GARY DAVIDSON is to GENE RODDENBERRY as I am to JOSEPH MICHAEL STRACZYNSKI, so FINNEGAN'S SQUAD™ will appeal not only to hardcore STAR TREK™/BABYLON 5™ fandom, but to “people who don't like SF”, who enjoy for example C.S.I.: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION™, C.S.I.: MIAMI™, J.A.G.™, N.Y.P.D. BLUE™, NAVY N.C.I.S.™, et cetera. GAZ has forgotten more about STAR TREK™ that I will ever know in 6 lifetimes, so I am curious to see how fandom interacts with him at TORONTO TREK 18.

The more selfish appeal of FINNEGAN'S SQUAD™ for me is that I am called upon to use virtually every skill I have ever brought to bear throughout my career, with heavy emphasis upon spoken dialogue & stunts. When I began training in Classical Drama at age 5 in Manchester, I had the benefit of having been home-taught by my adoptive parents, so I knew how to read & write, and had a firm grasp of the works of MR. WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, especially MACBETH™, a character whom I should like to essay opposite MS. CATE BLANCHETT, before attempting to direct the play myself, one day. Yes, I love STAR TREK VI: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY™!

AA:   I am sure I speak for the members of the USS Magellan in wishing you the success your enthusiasm and obvious professionalism deserves.

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