Sci fi guy comes north for Carnaval

Michael McManus is a good-looking man … considering he’s been dead for a couple thousand years.

Michael McManus is a good-looking man … considering he’s been dead for a couple thousand years.

In fact McManus’ character, an ex-assassin named Kai, died more than 2,000 years before the first episode of the Canadian cult TV series Lexx was shot in the late 1990s.

Kai, whose lack of emotion has been compared to Spock on Star Trek, dresses all in black and sports a wicked beehive with a long chunk of hair falling in front of his eyes.

These days, wearing a thick mop of white hair, McManus has left Kai behind.

And the Toronto-based actor has come to Whitehorse to lend his talents to Carnaval.

McManus plays the troubled miner Ernesto in Nakai and Gwaandak Theatre’s co-production, which opened Thursday evening in Raven Recycling’s junkyard.

“He’s been wounded by life, becomes an ideologue, takes over a country, eventually, and resolves his problems in the worst possible way,” said McManus.

The actor scored this gig through a long-standing friendship with Nakai’s artistic director David Skelton.

“He’s a fabulous actor and he’s the right age for the character and he’s very charismatic,” said Skelton.

That charisma earned McManus a dedicated cult following since he started on Lexx.

While shooting in Halifax, fans would stage “un-conventions.”

Dozens would show up unannounced on set dressed in homemade theme costumes.

Once, more than 100 people arrived en masse; they enjoyed a tour of the production company and held a contest to see who could best imitate Kai in a singing contest.

It was like a big party, McManus said.

Although a couple fans became a bit “stalker-ish,” most people are just in it for fun, he said.

Sci-fi fans are collectors.

And McManus has become a collector’s object.

“It’s not just adoration, I don’t think,” he said.

“It’s an active fan base trying to get a piece of the action.

“Most of it is pretty normal sci-fi fan stuff.”

Except when it’s not.

There was one woman in a small town in Germany who had a long-distance love affair with the actor.

And the pair had never met.

“She would write a daily love diary of our relationship and put in pictures, like, ‘This is our new bed, Michael, when are you coming?’

“She would write these love journals and send them to me with locks of her hair and pictures of her on her horse,” he said.

“It was very sweet, but the producers in Germany were very worried about it.”

One ended up chasing her away after they found her poking around the set.

To discourage the stalkers, McManus tends to be standoffish with fans — only signing an occasional autograph.

(The reluctance made them sought-after objects. At one point a fan bought his signature over the internet for US$200.)

Over six years, Lexx ambled along with money from Germany, France, Britain and the US.

It cycled through four sessions and ended in 2002.

“People watched it, but I don’t think it was ever what you’d call a hit,” said McManus.

“Lexx didn’t necessarily present a clear uphill journey to stardom.”

Now the show is enjoying a resurgence in popularity with the sci-fi convention crowd.

Recently, a woman purchased his domain name, www.michael-mcmanus.com, and built a webpage dedicated to Kai.

“It’s a little weird,” said McManus. “I think she’s pretty energetic.”

McManus has only recently begun going to sci-fi conventions — starting with the MegaCon Convention in Orlando.

“If I can get a golf trip out of it in the winter, for fun and profit I might do a couple a year,” he said.

Between satisfying bouts of his fans’ hunger, McManus has rekindled his relationship with his first love — the theatre.

Last summer he played Shakespeare’s doomed soldier Macbeth in Armstrong, BC.

“It’s a great role for an actor, a beautiful role.

“His imagination is very intense compensating for his lack of intelligence and mental acuity.

“He’s a soldier, so he can go and slaughter, but when he starts doing it of his own volition it starts screwing with his head,” said McManus.

To play a role where the main feature is an overactive imagination is a gift for an actor.

“I think that’s why most people become actors, they’ve got overactive imaginations and brains the size of walnuts,” he said with a laugh.

From deceased assassin, to doomed soldier to damned revolutionary, McManus has taken on many personas.

But becoming someone else isn’t the toughest part of the job.

“The work that really screws around with an actor’s psyche is stuff that’s not successful,” said McManus.

“It hurts you and it seems like that stays with you.

“You just feel like a silly goose.”

Carnaval runs at Raven Thursday to Saturday evenings until May 26. See www.nakaitheatre.com for show times.