I have a few things to say about the new issue of TV Guide that is
hitting the stands. About half a dozen things that I'd like to say. But I
can't. So let me just remark that it's unfortunate that when a book like TV
Guide does a roundup of SF shows, it has to break them all down by Who's the
Good Guy, Who's the Bad Guy, What's the Gimmick on and on...all of the things
they never do with a dramatic TV series. One also wishes that the people they
assign to do an article on SF television would have a background in SF that
extends earlier than Star Trek.
Beyond that, respondent sayeth not.
The article does give away some information, though, that I feel I should
comment upon, since it involves our cast.
When you cast a television series, what you look for, among other things,
are compatibility, chemistry, energy and synergy. This is all the more vital
when you're producing an *ensemble* series. The individual cast members may
be wonderful performers; may have turned in fine performances. The question
becomes, when you put them all together in the same room, does the energy
level go up, or down? Is the whole more or less than the sum of its parts?
After we produced the pilot, as stated before, we did a long and very
frank in-house analysis, which had one point and one point only: how do we
make the series even *better* than the pilot? Everything was on the table:
efx, music, writing, directing, costuming, set design, and all went through
changes that will make the series even better. Casting was also on the table,
along with everything else. It has to be.
As stated, we were very happy with the individual performances. The
question that remained, though, was *can it be better*? Is it possible to
increase the energy, the chemistry, between the various roles? The answer,
after long and considerable debate, was "yes, it is."
As a result, modifications were made. Which, again, should not be taken
as a reflection on anyone.
The modifications affected three roles: the lieutenant commander, the
doctor, and Sinclair's love interest. We're not recasting those specific
roles (in other words, there won't be a new Sykes), but other actors playing
other characters. This is in part because we would like to at some point in
time bring back one or more of the original actors in other capacities as
guest stars for an episode or two. Because they did good work. The matter at
hand is what's the best *combination*?
Here's the new breakdown.
Being of Byelorussian descent, I've always wanted to write for an ethnic
Russian character. Not someone with an accent, any more than I have an accent
even though I have a last name with 10,000 consonants and no vowels. There's
a wry and formal and stiff-necked and sometimes very passionate streak that
runs through the Russian spirit, and a certain rough-hewn mysticism, a sense
of absolute fatality and doom punctuated by moments of great belief in
humanity. It's a mix of traits you don't much see in American television.
Which is why the new second in command is Lieutenant Commander Susan
Ivanova, who will be played by Claudia Christian, a fantastic and very strong
performer who just knocked us out of the room. Very much a commanding
presence, a little quirky when she wants to be, a shade on the pessimistic
Having come out of an Eastern European background, I've long lamented the
stereotyped roles usually written for that kind of character, and look forward
to drawing upon the real thing for her character.
For the role of Dr. Stephen Franklin we have found an intense and
powerful african-american actor named Richard Biggs. He's younger, in his mid-
to late thirties, dedicated, sharp and...again, the word I keep coming back to
is *intense*. Consider a younger Dr. (and I'm going to misspell this)
Debakke: self-assured, confident almost to a fault. He comes largely out of
an experimental background, so his bedside manner isn't all it should be.
He's often impatient. His character is the newest addition to the B5 "team"
of characters, and this will lead to a fair amount of conflict.
To balance out his personality, we plan to introduce another doctor (one
of many who work under Franklin, since he is medical chief of staff on B5,
which has several medlabs in different locations), an older Hispanic doctor.
Finally, having gone his separate ways with Caroline -- she wanted him to
leave his job, he wouldn't -- Sinclair renews a longstanding relationship with
Catherine Sakai, a role we are going to cast sometime fairly soon.
Catherine works for an Earth Corp surveying asteroids and planets for
minerological exploitation, making sure they're uninhabited, and finding items
that might present the greatest possibility for profit.
On a classified mission (which I hope we will be able to get into at some
point), Laurel has been reassigned out on the Rim, and Dr. Kyle is now working
with the EA President on the issue of alien migration to Earth, a growing
problem to some, a benefit to others.
We believe that the synergy between these new characters will be
genuinely terrific. Some very funny things are coming out of it, and some
very moving, personal stories are also coming out.