Claudia Black’s Sci-Fi Advice to a Young James McAvoy Proves Timeless

Once upon a time, Aeryn Sun gave Mr. Tumnus some advice.

To be accurate, Mr. Tumnus wasn’t Mr. Tumnus yet. He was just James McAvoy, a young actor in Syfy’s Dune miniseries. But Aeryn Sun was, as she always is, actress Claudia Black. As one of the stars of Farscape, she was invited to Syfy’s premieres. And at one of those, she spoke to James McAvoy—who never forgot what she said.

This story came up because of a recent interview McAvoy did about his Dune experience (he starred in Syfy’s Children of Dune miniseries). Speaking with /Film, McAvoy said he had no specific advice for Timotheé Chalamet about taking on the Atreides mantle. What advice he did have came from Claudia Black:

I’ll tell you what’s one really good piece of advice that was given to me once, was by the cast of … what was the show called again? Farscape. And it was at the L.A. premiere of Children of Dune, and they said to me, that the thing with this sh*t, i.e. science fiction, is that you have to believe it more than you believe good writing. Good writing, you can just do. It’s easier. But this stuff is hard, because it’s so bonkers, you know what I mean? And I’ve really, I’ve always remembered that advice and taken it to heart. It’s so kept me going really, through a lot of science fiction and fantasy work that I’ve done. Because it was Claudia Black that said it. And I think that’s just good advice for any actor doing any kind of science fiction and/or fantasy, you know?

Black saw this interview and responded with a sweet and thoughtful Twitter thread that, as she notes, shows how she and McAvoy both remember this encounter differently but meaningfully.

The context Black gives as she tells the story from her perspective—the ups and downs of working on Farscape and being on a sci-fi show before sci-fi became mainstream; her own experience in the years to follow—gives so much resonance to a passing moment between actors. She wanted him to know how good he was, and so she told him. But what McAvoy remembered was not the praise but the practical advice: to believe in what you’re doing.

Black’s entire thread is more than worth reading. It’s a story about aging, in Hollywood and the world, and about being a woman in an industry with very specific and deeply limited ideas about what that means; it’s a story about being heard, and being visible; and it’s a story about how you never know which small moments in your life are going to have incredible staying power. McAvoy carried Black’s words through decades of SFF work, and in the end, his memory of those words gave something back to her.

 

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