Iris Interview: Jason Carter of Babylon 5 (1994-1998, USA)

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The Iris’ Johnny Au speaks with Jason Carter ahead of the Armageddon Expo in Melbourne. Jason is best known of his role as Ranger Marcus Cole in the Sci-fi series Babylon 5.

What inspired you to get into acting in the beginning?

I had been fortunate enough as a teen to be cast as ‘The Artful Dodger’ in a school production of Oliver. The teacher who directed the play was a consummate actor himself, and played the role of Fagin. This experience, coupled with seeing Peter O’Toole in the wonderful film The Ruling Class – which I stumbled across watching TV whilst babysitting at a neighbor’s house – definitely sowed the seeds to audition for Drama School.

Are there any roles you’ve played that you think should have receive/deserved more attention?

I played ‘Repo Demon’ out to collect Gunn’s soul in an episode of Angel – ‘Double or Nothing’. A four and a half hour full prosthetic makeup, interlocking teeth. I thought I did a good job. The producers said I would be back but I never got the call. I know every actor has these stories but it was my first time ‘under the rubber’, having the liberation of being totally disguised – so I was disappointed.

Have you ever declined a role which you later regretted? If so what was it and why did you decide against it originally?

Work is work and I would only decline a role if I had enough foresight to see the project was going to suck or be promoting ideas that I strongly condemned. Yes I admit that on occasions I have had severely impaired foresight. I may need new lenses.

Can you tells us about the “Biggs and Carter Experience” workshops you held with Richard Biggs?

Rick and I used a variety of exercises, which we would call games, as tools to free up the performer physically, vocally, intellectually and emotionally. Through these games, participants enjoyed the expression of their imagination and, while preoccupied with the shared fun and demands of each game, would find themselves creating theatre.

We believed that whether improvising dialogue with few basic rules, or playing scripted dialogue for stage or television, all of acting is fundamentally the same game. All require imagined characters in imagined situations with imagined stories. We invited the participants, whether seasoned professionals or beginners, to come and play our games. All people have the experience to play the game that is Theatre. We all live and love and think and feel. We all have stories.

What did the role of Marcus Cole in Babylon 5 do for your career?

Sustained decent income (which is rare) and I got to be not just one but two action figures. Oh yeah.

How did you win the role of Marcus Cole?

I auditioned for J Micheal Strazynski for what my agent thought was a guest star role. I read the pages at the audition and subsequently was offered a 3-year contract… My agent was as shocked as I was.

What is it about the character of Marcus Cole that resonated with fans?

Apart from Marcus’ wit and fighting skill was the noble simplicity of his intentions. For personal reasons, he was determined to give his all to the battle against the enemies of free peoples, with no regard for self or personal gain. To Ivanova, the object of his unspoken secret desire, but whose survival he considered more important for the great struggle than his own, he ultimately did give his all. His life-force. Of course, we all wondered at what happened next. 🙂

Is there a the role you played that you enjoyed the most and why?

At the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, I played Romeo in Romeo and Juliet on a 3-month tour of Holland and Belgium. I loved it, for obvious reasons – it’s a great role in a great play by the greatest writer.

What do you like most about attending conventions like Armageddon? Are you looking forward to meeting your Australian fans?

Always so much to see at any of the big conventions but this is in Australia and I love Australians. Aussies are like Brits but less uptight – we are closely related. Every time I have worked in or visited Australia I have had a fantastic time. So I am greatly looking forward to Armageddon.

What are you working on at present?

Black – a story of Thaddeus Black, an Episcopalian priest in the 1830’s Iowa Territory who loses his way after his faith and arrogance cause the death of his family.

His journey towards redemption takes him through a Hell of his own making, where in order to find peace; he must confront the demons he has embraced, battle the God he has disavowed, and examine what spiritual power actually is.

Are you surprised at all about the level of attention you still receive from Babylon 5 fans after the show ended 15 years ago?

I am not surprised at the attention but I feel fortunate. Good science fiction sagas become mythical in proportion. Myths endure in memory and I was part of the great saga of Babylon 5.

Jason Carter is appearing at Armageddon Expo held on Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th of October at Melbourne Showgrounds. Information available at www.armageddonexpo.com/au/