Xena Magazine #23 - Actor David Franklin

Author: Paul Simpson
Source: Titan`s Xena Magazine #23
Date: August 2001

David Franklin wasn't the first actor to portray Brutus on Xena: Warrior Princess. Caesar's henchman was originally played by Grant Triplow in the second season episode Destiny. However, Franklin made the character very much his own in season four's dramatic episodes Endgame and The Ides of March, and impressed Xena's producers enough to be asked back for season five's Anthony and Cleopatra and season six's When Fates Collide.

Responsible for the death of Caesar and Cleopatra, as well as countless Amazons[..Ephiny!!], like many historical counterparts on Xena, Brutus is far removed from the real historical figure. But that was all part of the attraction for the Australian actor.

Franklin freely admits that he told a "little white lie" to become involved with the show. "I saw Xena screening here in Australia, and I thought it was a cool show," he recalls. "I just liked the style of it. I thought it was out there and adventurous. It was funny - a bit different.

"I'd heard it was filmed in New Zealand," he continues, "and I decided that I'd really love to be in it. So I got my agents to get in touch with the casting people." Much to Franklin's disappointment, however, Xena's producers turned him down. "They said, 'We're not interested in taking anybody from Australia'," he explains.

Determined to state his case, Franklin took matters into his own hands. "I flew over to New Zealand and got my agents to call up and say that I was just over there for a wedding, and that I might pop in and say hello," he says, a little shame-faced. "And so I did."

Franklin's plan worked. "They said, 'While you're here, why don't you read for this character that's coming up?' So I ended up doing an audition after saying I was just visiting for a wedding, having in fact flown over just for that day! And they ended up offering me the role of Brutus."

Initially Franklin didn't see Brutus as a bad character, and is slightly hurt by the suggestion that he was motivated by anything other than honour. "He wasn't a bad dude," he maintains. "As a matter of fact, he had his values. He was a bit misguided as to where his alliances and allegiances were, but he was a very moral man. At least, he was to start with. He wanted Rome to be a republic, and his motivations were very pure. But he was being hoodwinked by Caesar."

Franklin worked from the information he was given for the scripts of Endgame and The Ides of March, only having a vague idea of the history that had passed between Xena, Gabrielle and Brutus in previous episodes. "It turned out that he and Gabrielle had known each other at an earlier time," he recalls, "and they were all friends."

The actor didn't feel that there was any point in referencing the original historical character of Brutus, since everything had been changed to suit Xena's version of history. "I only did two years of History at school, so I didn't realise that Xena was actually involved in all of this," he jokes. "There are huge gaps in my historical knowledge! But I was set straight... Actually," he adds, "it's a lot of fun playing around with history so shamelessly"

After all the effort he had gone to in order to appear in the Xenaverse, Franklin admits that he was a bit disappointed on his first day on the set when he examined the call sheet for that day's filming. "In the scene we were about to film, I discovered I was going to be dragged along behind a horse by Xena!" he exclaims.

"I said to the First Assistant Director that I couldn't see my stunt double's name listed. 'Oh no,' he said. 'We don't have a stunt double for you. We've got this whole rig set up behind a jeep, and we're going to drag you along with that.' I thought, 'Aargh! I want to go home!' I said that as long as the stunt coordinator did it, and I could see that it was safe, then sure, I'd do it. So he did, and I did, and it was actually a lot of fun. But it did scare the hell out of me!"

Franklin loved the physical aspects of the role of Brutus. Although he hadn't done much swordfighting before working on the show, he enjoyed upping his body count as the series progressed. "I had so much fun doing the fights," he enthuses. "But I found it really hard doing it in the armour, because you're very restricted. You want to get a full movement for all that sword action to work really well, to get that style, and it's really hard when you've been turned into 'Turtle Man!' But thankfully Xena had a fantastic Second Unit crew which recreated the fights using really good fighters. So when they put it all together you ended up looking really brilliant!"

The climax of The Ides of March is very powerful, with Xena and Gabrielle being crucified while Brutus and the Romans assassinate Caesar when he reveals his plans to become much more than just a Senator. Franklin found that in order to make the scene believable, he had to immerse himself in the emotions of the moment. "You have to pretend at the time that it's all true," he explains. "I know that sounds odd, but it's the truth for that point in time. Brutus was betrayed. He thought he was working for the common good. To reach that point and then realise that everything he'd done had been for Caesar's benefit, and not for the good of Rome... I think that murderous rage was justifiable."

Franklin didn't get a chance to watch Endgame and The Ides of March until he visited the Xena sets for his final appearance in Xena, in the sixth season episode When Fates Collide. However, he was very impressed with the final version. "It cut together really well," he says. "It was so powerful. They were quite an epic couple of episodes."

Franklin particularly enjoyed the creative atmosphere on the Xena: Warrior Princess sets. He found it refreshing that if someone had a good idea that would improve a scene, it would often be incorporated into the final mix. One such idea came from Lucy Lawless during the filming of The Ides of March, leading to one of Brutus' more memorable moments. "I think it was Lucy who suggested that I was having a pee," Franklin says of the scene in which Xena interrupts Brutus at an inopportune moment. "We thought that was a great idea! After all, when are you more vulnerable?

"So I liked that spirit. It increases the chances of the scene being more alive and interesting, and of making it work better. When you're with people who share the same goal while realising that time is always barking at your heels, you can come up with something that's really strong. It was a relaxed atmosphere, and we were working towards getting clarity with the scenes as well as having fun. We had to create the truth of that world and do it in as relaxed a manner as possible to make sure it was fun. You can't do your best work when you're stressed out!"

Franklin wasn't sure whether Brutus would make a return appearance. "There was talk about it, but I thought, 'I'll see that when it happens'," he admits. When Lucy Lawless became pregnant, however, the next Rome instalment, Anthony and Cleopatra, had to be postponed until she had regained her figure enough to be able to film the episode's rather revealing scenes.

In Anthony and Cleopatra, Brutus is again caught in the middle and is being used by different sides for their own ends. But this time he pays the price for his deceit and is murdered by Gabrielle. "The death scene was filmed in the middle of nowhere over about three or four nights," Franklin recalls. "That was really, really uncomfortable. Not only were we working straight through the nights, but it was cold and wet, and I think I had the flu too! So it wasn't a lot of fun - even though it was still fun in a way! Plus it was a really ugly fight, which was good - it got dirty because Brutus was off the rails by then."

Franklin never expected to return to the Xenaverse following his character's death in Anthony and Cleopatra. "I thought, 'It's been great fun; I've had a ball, but obviously I'm dead now!'" he explains. "Little did I know! But it was so much fun to come back towards the end and be a part of that final season."

Brutus is brought back to life in When Fates Collide when Caesar interferes with the Fates and thereby alters the past. Although Franklin didn't have a lot to do in the episode, he enjoyed having the opportunity to return to the Xena sets. "I treated it as a holiday" he laughs. "Brutus was very much the B or C storyline, but I gave the part my all, and I enjoyed being in New Zealand." The episode also gave Franklin the chance to work with recurring Xena guest star Ted Raimi, whose character Joxer was also brought back from the dead in the story. "Ted and I hung out at work," he reveals. "He's funny! I hadn't worked with him before, and he's cool."

Franklin wasn't overly impressed with his second death sequence - this time he was murdered by Caesar's hand, all the while being told that his 'friend' loves him. "Oh yeah," he says dubiously. "The writers decided to see what would happen if events went this way. Still, it's always interesting to see what fate could deal out in different scenarios. I didn't think it was a very satisfying decline for old Caesar, but that's life in Xena-land!"

During his visits to New Zealand, Franklin was able to spend some time travelling around the islands. "I went up to the Bay of Islands, and I went for a fantastic horse ride on a black sand beach," he recalls. "It was like my fantasy of horse riding - galloping along this fantastic beach in this beautiful country. That's why I was always so excited whenever we went out on location, because we were going to such beautiful, ancient, unspoiled areas."

The entire Xena experience was certainly a lot fun for Franklin. "It's how you would imagine acting to be like when you were 10 years old," he explains. "You play dressing up and fighting, and you get paid for doing it!"

When Franklin made his farewell appearance on Xena, he was already a familiar face on another Southern Hemisphere fantasy show - the Jim Henson Company space series Farscape, on which he plays Lieutenant Braca, henchman to the evil Scorpius. First appearing at the end of the first season, Braca has aided Scorpius throughout the second year and into the third, somehow keeping himself from being killed by his capricious master.

Franklin found working on Farscape and Xena similar as the shows are both comparatively large productions by local standards. "They've both got two large units going all the time," he points out. "They're always moving, like one of those big boats. Once they start, they've got to keep going."

Franklin also made a brief appearance in the film sequel 'Crocodile Dundee in LA', which was filmed up the Gold Coast in Queensland. "I play a very loud, obnoxious American First Assistant Director," he says. "So I was able to get revenge on all the First ADs that I've ever worked with!"

While Brutus may now be finally dead, Franklin looks likely to continue to lay his villainous henchman role on Farscape for the foreseeable future. "I keep being very surprised that I've tiptoed through the minefield," he points out. "With Scorpius, one half foot wrong and you're dead..."

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