Claudia Christian

 
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Known to most of her fans as Babylon 5's Commander Susan Ivanova, Claudia Christian has a wide-ranging theatrical career that includes stage, screen and lecture appearances in addition to her television projects. 

Why did Claudia want to play a hellish and driven "housewife from the valley" in True Rights? Why did she disguise her immense beauty with a wig and a fat suit to play Elaine Kilgore?

Let's let Claudia answer these questions in her own words. Here is what Claudia Christian has to say about True Rights.


EXCLUSIVE! EXCLUSIVE! 

CLAUDIA CHRISTIAN'S  ACCOUNT OF HER EXPERIENCE PLAYING ELAINE KILGORE

THE BEGINNING

I recall the first time I ever read the screenplay of True Rights with enormous joy.  At last!!!  A smart, fun, black comedy where the woman: wicked, horrible and ugly to boot, was the lead.  Oh!  And she never suffered that disgusting Hollywood cliché for all bad women: redemption.  Elaine Kilgore was rotten to the core and Dammit I was the one to play her!!!

I laughed and laughed while putting in miles to nowhere on my treadmill ...God I loved this script.  Now, I just had to convince supercool - friend to the feminist writer/director Meg Thayer to hire me.  To say that was anything less than a Herculean task means that you've slept with Woody Allen and enjoyed it ... And didn't talk about it later ... IMPOSSIBLE!!!  Get the point?  Here I was, an attractive, coming towards the sexual peak, actress of some renown who did Playboy ... Begging to star as a fat, actually "pear-shaped" Jewish (yeah, what brilliant casting ... Claudia CHRISTIAN) bitch of a woman who is desperate to fit in (okay that part I could handle).

So I had the nervous first date meting with her via my friend Andy Trapani who was producing this flick.  All the way to the restaurant I kept wondering "why did they pick the one restaurant in L.A. That my ex boyfriend owns!!"  I mean I like the guy ... He's great.  But for a meeting, I like to feel in control. So I had decided not to dress up in a fat suit and wig and humiliate myself in front of all of the people that I knew at this restaurant, so I dressed casually and went for dinner prepared to kill her if she didn't agree that I should have the role.  I had a lovely evening.  I believe I even made her laugh and then ... I went home and did what I always do ... Waited for the phone to ring. 

Well, low and behold, Andy called and said that as much as Miss Meg liked me, I was too pretty and blah blah blah blah.  The rest was a sea of nonsensical excuses designed to get me off my forgiving butt and scream "NO!!  I'll play the role!!!" Luckily Meg knew nothing of my collection of edged weapons and gave me a second meeting.

When, after table readings with non-actors that would make you cry with their lack of talent ... And screen tests at Meg's house with me scarfing rice cakes and gross things to spit up during my audition, I finally won the role.

Folks, I won't go into the gory details about how I convinced Meg of my inner Elaine and snagged the role, but I will say that True Rights is the best work I have ever done and that Meg Thayer is an amazing writer.  I cannot get her to believe me so I'll say it here.  It was the best time I've ever had on a film and the funniest script I have EVER read.

THE WORK

I finally won the role, now what?  I had spent the better part of my career trying to convince other people that I was beautiful.  Now I had to convince her* I was a fat trog with an attitude.  I decided that I had to wear a wig and Meg and I agreed on a pear shaped fat suit.  My god, I was excited! 

We procured my unbelievably bad wardrobe from a salvation army joint on Pico Blvd.  Little did I know those orange jump suits and animal print sweaters would be what I was wearing when I met my boyfriend.  God bless Taylor.

After the physical stuff I started getting into my adolescent head because, after all, that is when you are the most insecure and lost and desperately scared.  I pictured Elaine as an angry woman who believed that she never had her shot at life.  She never went to Paris and you know what?  She never would.  That was what was so pathetic - you saw the end result and realized that there wasn't enough substance to support this being's desires.  Elaine would remain shallow.  I cannot as a good actress speak of the preparation or tricks that I used, because quite frankly, for 21 days, I was quite simply -- Elaine Kilgore.  And also quite frankly -- I understood her completely.

CLAUDIA'S HANDWRITTEN CHARACTER NOTES:

*There was no way that Elaine could have good posture.  That would imply confidence and pride - two things she couldn't buy.  So I developed bad posture and a goofy walk.  "Shlumpy" I called it.

*The acrylic nails also helped a lot.  It was her attempt at "glamour".  However, it of course made her look even tackier.

*The costume jewelry was actually my mom's.  She used to manage "Giorgios of Beverly Hills" in the height of the Reagan era excess 80s.

*Horrible table manners and eating with my mouth open was a must!  She stabbed her food and ate it with a knife and then licked it.  It was very liberating - and very disgusting.

  Editor's note: Meg Thayer often refers to Claudia's portrayal of Elaine as an Academy-Award-winning quality piece of work This web-mistress agrees; one of the final scenes in the movie, the 'We're in!' scene, is the standard by which I judge the quality of every movie I see. "Is this performance as good as Claudia's in the 'We're in!' scene?" I ask myself. Usually, I must answer myself "No."


Here are just a few links to the amazing bounty of websites devoted to our gloriously unrepentant heroine. 

The Official Claudia Christian Spot in Cyberspace 

Claudia Christian Web Page

Claudia Christian Homepage

Claudia Christian Web Ring

Ivanova Is God! The Claudia Christian Website

UK Terrestrial Cult TV - Claudia Christian

Elaine Kilgore's Home on the Web


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