WHATEVER happened to Mr Garibaldi?

David Richardson

Cult Times 34, July 98

 

Well, in a nutshell, he worked on Europa, witnessed the death of his close friend and turned alcoholic. He recovered, met Lise Hampton (Denise Gentile), got offered the job of security chief on Babylon S, and lost her to two men in succession. On B5 he set about bringing some order amid the chaos, got shot in the back by his right hand man, was brought back to life with an alien healing machine and joined Captain Sheridan's campaign against Earth's President Clark and the Shadows. Then he got abducted by a Shadow vessel, brainwashed by the Psi-Corps, resigned his post on the station and betrayed Sheridan.

A lost cause? Not at all; Garibaldi then led the team to rescue the Captain, who was then made president of the Alliance of alien worlds, while Garibaldi became his Head of Covert Intelligence. He even managed a romantic reunion with Lise. Life, it seems, is perfect... until The Ragged Edge.

"The character starts drinking again and really falls off the wagon in a bad way," explains actor Jerry Doyle, "and the consequences of that are...

He stops suddenly, obviously concerned that he's about to reveal one of those

dreaded fifth season spoilers. "He'd got things together, but there are still certain little tweaks that he hasn't taken care of. But it's a combination: things are still bad, but things are also good, and he's got to fix one and test the other. It causes the character to say, 'Life's going great, so I can start drinking again - I can handle it'.

"It was a very interesting place to he, because the consequences of him being an alcoholic earlier on in the series were not as great as they are now. Back then he was really just hurting himself, and fortunately he had people who helped him along the way. Now he's hurting not only himself but also a lot more people. He has less people to help him. So it's been a really interesting arc to play, and the resolution of it is pretty good."

Garibaldi is Babylon 5s Everyman. We can all relate to him, because - despite being a total professional and well-intentioned individual - he's riddled with weaknesses and frailties.

"I love the character," enthuses Doyle. "If you take a look at the complexity of the characrer - lie's cynical, he's jaded, he's not politic, he's not subtle, he's a pain in the ass, lie's been fired from a lot of lobs. He's a recovering alcoholic, he's got relationship problems, he doesn't trust authority; he can be your best friend and your worst enemy.

"Put that character into any situation that takes place on the station and there are limitless ways to go. For me it's been trying to find the new notes, so you don't just play the same, 'Cynical, jaded, irreverent, non-political, pain in the ass kind of a guy'. You're trying to throw some new layers into it, and what's been nice is the progression of the relationship with [Lise]. So it's been really fun to play."

Essentially, the role is timeless - take Garibaldi out of Babylon S and put him in any number of other TV shows, and he would still be credible.

Yeah, he could be in Hill Street Blues, he could be in Casablanca, he could be in Barney Miller," Doyle concurs. "Me tries to help himself, he tries to get it right, he makes these stabs at relationships, he gets afraid so he retreats, and he uses humor as a barrier to stop people getting too close.

He gets to do things in life that we would like to get to do, like just punch somebody out without the real consequences that go along with it. Me just says things that you think, 'Yeah I'd like to tell my boss that!' I try and make the character all those things but not make him an asshole, just a likeable guy having a bad day - because people don't like assholes. This is a guy who recognizes his own problems and tries to work on them. Me won't back down, he's his own worst enemy and hardest critic."

One would imagine that series creator, executive producer and writer Joe Straczynski is rather fond of the characten After all, Garibaldi gets the lion's share of the action in Season Five, after playing a major role in the arc of Season Four. Could it be that Straczynski just finds him easy to write for?

"I don't know if it's easy to write for, because I don't think writing is an easy profession," says Doyle. "You've got a blank piece of paper. First you've got to fill it up, then you've got to make it work. Every time you finish a page, the next one is blank - that's a bitch. I go out there and all my pages are full."

Sitting in his trailer outside the Babylon S soundstage, Doyle is taking a break from shooting scenes for episode 20, Objects at Rest. Watching people in the studio, one gets the sense of closure - the storyline is wrapping up, some of the cast and crew are expecting to move on to new projects, while others are looking forward to working on the spin-off series Crusade.

"It seems to be working its way towards pairings," says Doyle of the story arc. "Bruce and Mira, Andreas and [spoiler], Rick and [spoiler], myself and [spoiler]... I don't know who they're pairing Tracey up with. Nobody yet! Everyone talks about the spin off, who's doing what and going where, so Joe basically put us at all points scattered, so whether we stay scattered or we all come back I don't know They are nice tie-ups for the storylines for each individual character throughout the story arc."

The eagerly awaited season finale, Sleeping in Light, has already been shot. Most fans seem to be aware that the story is set 20 years in the future, and required the principal cast to be aged accordingly.

"The look that I had was a little bit like the cover of TV Guide - the bald head with the goatee - except pushed 20 years," the actor offers. "When they did my first make up test I said, 'I looked like f***ing Wilfred Brimley!' I had this big ugly nasty beard on me, but the look didn't match my face. So we worked on it and we got it right I think. It was an interesting episode."

After Sleeping in Light, Babylon 5 is over - aside from the occasional TV movie that may be commissioned by TNT. However, Doyle is not convinced that the series will go away that easily - even though the five year story has been told.

"I understand Joe, as a writer he's a purist and it's his story," he muses. "But also this is show business, it's not show art, and as a capitalist you have to take a look at what has happened, and what is happening, and what people want to happen.

"TNT coming in was a huge boost for our morale, our exposure, our audience, demographics... They put a lot of money and time into marketing the show: wee got billboards, and the sides of buses and print and radio and TV...! remember driving down Sunset Boulevard about three months ago and I saw a billboard on Sunset Plaza. I just went, 'It's about time!' So there's a whole new life that the show has gotten.

"For them to come in and promote the fifth season that strongly, spend $10 million doing it, and then say, 'OK great, thanks that was a lot of fun'... I don't see that happening. Few shows get a chance to do 110 episodes. We're blessed to be one of them, and when you have a show or a potential franchise that works, why would you re-invent the wheel? We have something that's working. Maybe it's retooled, maybe the characters change, maybe the place changes, but the central theme - like with the Star Trek franchise keeps going.

"If Joe is such a purist he would have wrapped up 422 as the end of Babylon 5- not 29 years in the future. So in that 20 years, a lot can happen like a spin off, like a feature film. He's certainly nobody's fool, and I'm sure he hedged his bets a little bit."

The past five years have certainly been momentous for Doyle; proof that he could make it as a successful actor in Hollywood, after abandoning a lucrative nine-year career on 'Wall Street as a trader. He arrived in Los Angeles with no theatrical training, lust the will to succeed, and within two weeks Doyle had secured his first role.

"I auditioned for a casting director at a workshop, and she called me two or three days later and I went and read for hen I was booked as a day player on The Bold and the Beautiful. It was a long day - like 16 or 17 hours - until two o'clock in the morning. Everybody was just pissy, they wanted to get the day done, and here comes the new guy! They figured, 'We'll be here all night with him', but I did it in one take. Next day the producer called the casting director and said, "Who's that Jerry Doyle guy? He had this really good f**k you look'. So they kept me on, on a recurring basis, for almost a year, and then I did recurring on Rome Front and Reasonable Doubts. Those were kind of between and after the pilot for Babylon 5."

Surely it must have been somewhat daunting, walking into a. studio for the first time?

"It was weird, I gotta tell you!" he beams, "I don't want this to sound cocky,

but I will anyway: I don't go into things to see if they're going to work out. I go into things to see how far I can take it. I didn't come here saying, 'I'll give it six months and then if it doesn't work I'll go and get a hotel. I came here and said, 'OK, I've decided to do this. What do I have to do to make it happen? Now let's do it.'

"l'rn sure I did auditions at the begin-fling that just sucked, and people that I've conic back in touch with from early on have said, 'Yeah I remember you... you just kept going'. I had to figure out what It was that people who were working were doing and eliminate what the people who weren't working weren't doing. In our business 80 per cent of actors in the screen actors guild made less than $10,000. Nothing against that 80 per cent who are making less than $10,000, but I've got to riot do what they are doing. I've got to concentrate on what the three per cent in this business. ire doing, who are making over $50,ooo.

"I tackled it as a business, I went to SAG [Screen Actors Guild] and I got the numbers and I made the phone calls. Not knowing the certain protocol that this business has, I kept pushing forward. People didn't see it as cocky; maybe they saw it as refreshing. They don't know why they remember you, but they do, and in this business it's about being remembered."

"Luck has a lot to do with getting into this business and staying in the business, and at some point talent has to take over to sustain you. I'm sure in sonic cases I pissed off people. But, at some point, those people that I pissed off have to say, 'He's done pretty good'."

Doyle certainly impressed both the Babylon 5 producers and Warners executives when he auditioned for the role of Garibaldi. As before, it was his determination to succeed that created the right impression.

"I went in and [director] Richard Compton was there and Joe," he recalls. "They said, 'What part are you here for?' And I said something like, 'The one I'm going to get!' Joe said, 'Garibaldi', and I said, 'Mr. Garibaldi',

"They were taping it and the machine wasn't working, and I said, 'Take your time, I'll be outside and when you get it together, call me'. Richard Compton told me later, All you had to do was put two sentences together and you had the part, because you were that guy. We had four or five people we could have gone with, but you stole it.' ThankfulIy I auditioned for Garibaldi, because if I had auditioned for Londo or G'Kir or Sinclair or Doctor Kyle, I wouldn't have gotten it.

"I had one audition, I went hack a week later and I walked in and they said, 'This is so and so from wardrobe, this is so and so from contracts...' I said, 'I'm going to take this as a positive sign!' Boom, I got the deal, we negotiated that out, my agent told me to pass on it at the time because of the money, and I said, 'No this is some-thing new, something different'."

Doyle recalls that The Gathering was -shot in July 1992, on two sound stages at

the Santa Clarita studios.

"It was a 20-day shoot," he states. "It was all new to me, man! I had auditioned for one pilot in my life and that was; Babylon 5! It was like the first day of school going tip there. When I got there the light was on outside the sound stage [which indicates filming is in progress, and no one should enter], I stood out there for what seemed like five hours - but it was just broken, it was just on. I'm standing there thinking, 'I'm going to be late! They're expecting me on the set...' Anybody who's been in the business would just say, 'There's no way the light's on that long!'

"I enjoyed it, it was kind of like sex for the first time - you couldn't wait for it to happen, it went byway too fast and then you couldn't wait to do it again. I was just thankful that we went for a series. We made a lot of changes along the way."

Some of those changes happened immediately, as three characters - Doctor Kyle (Johnny Sekka), Laurel Takashima (Tamlyn Tomita) and Lyta Alexander (Patricia Tallman) - were replaced. Later surprise developments included the loss of Commander Sinclair (Michael O'Hare) at the end of Season One, and Lyta Alexander's eventual return. Was Doyle aware at the time that any of the actors could be dropped at a moment's notice?

"There's always that possibility," he nods. "Tamlyn was fun to work with, she was spunky and [I liked] Johnny Sekka... For some reason, I'm still here. I'm thankful that I am."

Ironically, after his time trying to impress producers and directors at casting sessions, Doyle is now at the other end of the process. He read with Denise Gentile when she auditioned for the role of Lise Hampton, and worked with the hopefuls who auditioned for the role of Captain Lochley.

From that session, which had to yield an outstanding replacement for (Slaudia Christian's Ivanova, Doyle discovered an excellent chemistry with Tracey Scoggins.

"I read I don't know how tnanv women,"

he remembcrs, and we narrowed it down to three. liacey got stronger every audition. Slit "'as then, and is now, as tutich fun bet'veen cut and action as between action and cut. They needed somebody who was going to step into a new role on an existing show, replace a popular character, pick up an intense storyline and go head to head with the male leads on the show. Joe had rue go in because my character rends to t)t a little more in your fact. Bruce's character was getting more presidential. ~ went at it, and she stood right there and it was, bang, hang, bang' back and forth. She ~how-ed up litre and from the first day that she was on the set it was like she had always been litre. She was a great choice for the role, she's great ftiii to work with, and she's been a very strong additioti to the cast I A)chlev is writ-ten right into the stor' line like she's always been a part of the hhric ot the show, and she's carved out her o'~ n little corner.

For Doyle, the fifth season has been a joyous time. Crus~dc begins shooting in July, and as yet it has not been confirmed which of the Babylon 5 regulars will he crossing over.

If I'm not in it, it'll be almost like a death in the family," he says candidly. "I love coming to work every day, simple as that. We have such a wonderful crew; a tight cast, and together those elements mesh really well. That group, that unit, that family is no longer there, and I guess I've kind of been in denial about it all along I want this to go on."

Nevertheless SF fans rarely say farewell to their favorite shows. The original Star Trek never went away; it simply came back as a series of feature films a decade later. Would Doyle be willing to return to the role of Garibaldi in the future, even if it meant playing the role when he was in his sixties?

'Sure, if it's a legitimate script," he nods. "If it's believable... if it's the right money! That's hard to say. Should Mel Gibson be doing Lethal Weapon 4? I heard rumors he was getting $40 million to do it. I don't think he would do it just for the money. But he probably said no enough times to make sure he got a real script, and he worked with a real cast and he could put tip a real product he could be proud of."

So, for $40 million, Doyle would return to the role of Michael Garibaldi at a later date...

"If they paid me $40 million I'd do a gay Western musical!" he laughs.

David Richardson