Claudia Christian Panel at Birmingham Memorabilia

Promoting her book, Babylon Confidential: A Memoir of Love, Sex, and Addiction, actress, writer, singer and director Claudia Christian was present at the NEC for Birmingham Memorabilia. Known for her role as Susan Ivanova on the TV series Babylon 5, her book had actually sold out at the event. “I don’t have any of them left. So maybe we shouldn’t talk about that!” While she did talk about her book, she also spoke about her time on Babylon 5, Starhyke and why she got into acting. Rather than sit on the stage, she was happy standing before the attendees and was in a cheerful mood joking and answering questions.

Asked about what it was like working on Starhyke, she said, “It was so much fun, such a riot, such great people. It’s just a pity that we didn’t do a second season because I had a blast doing it. A real blast!” On the mention of the plans on Facebook to raise support for a movie, she hopes that it happens. “I’d like to be Captain Belinda Blowhard again,” she laughed. “I only took the job because of the name!” She spoke about how the show’s writer and director Andrew Dymond offered her the role during a phone call. Recounting the call she also did an impression of Andrew: “He said, ‘Would you like to do this series that I’m doing? It’s a sci-fi series, very low budget.’ So I said, ‘Well yeah, sure.’ And he said, ‘Hang on, let me tell you your character’s name – Captain Belinda Blowhard.’ I went, ‘I’M IN!’ So that was how I got hooked on doing Starhyke. I was very grateful actually. It’s a lot more fun than sitting in L.A. waiting for the phone to ring.”

A question from a fan cited how every few years there’s always a rumour of a return of Babylon 5 and given the opportunity, would she go back and play Susan Ivanova? “Just a rumour,” said Claudia, as she mentioned how the show’s creator, Joseph Michael Straczynski, has his own studio now and is working on original material. “He doesn’t want to go back in time,” she said. But of her character she said, “Who wouldn’t want to go back to playing Ivanova? I had some of the best lines in the series. Of course I would put the outfit back on! It might not fit the same way.” Then came a realisation and she spoke about how her outfit has actually been sold! “They cut it up into little pieces and sold it! I still hang out with the cast and the crew and some of my best friends are from Babylon 5. It was a great experience. I think we would all do it, but it’s out of our hands.”

On her book Babylon Confidential, she described writing it as, “an interesting ride. It was very difficult to be that honest and that open. It was cathartic in a way. It felt like being completely naked. I figured if I’m not being honest then I have no right to write the book, because what I’m trying to do is help people so I have to be completely honest. It was hard. I thought everyone would say, ‘Oh my God’ and just not like me anymore! I felt pathetic, but a memoir has to be real.” She mentioned how her fans have been very supportive. “We sold out our first run and almost sold out our second one. Not that I see a penny of it,” she laughed. “The publishers are getting rich!” Having sold out of copies at Memorabilia she directed people to visit the site where she can also do signed copies.

Because of the transition to writing, she revealed how the acting business has changed. “When I started 30 years ago there were ten of us going up for the same role,” said Claudia. “It was ten girls that were my age and we all competed. Now when I go up for a role for The Mentalist or NCIS I’m going up against African American, Asian, Hispanic, I’m going up against men. Before I had a really good chance [of getting a role]. But then the advent of reality television came along and they cut scripted shows. There’s less scripted shows now. The ones that they do have they use feature film stars to do little TV roles. Actors and actresses like me are relegated to competing for tiny little [parts]. It’s not worth my time anymore, so I’ve had to diversify. I would love to be on a series again, but the bottom line is I’m not going to take something that’s beneath me. I have too much experience.”

She then told of an acting job that she was recently offered, saying, “Somebody wanted me to come in and play a secretary. Literally the line was, ‘Oh, the door’s over here sir.’ After 30 years, 50 films and thousands of hours of TV I’m going to be an extra? I don’t think so. So I’d rather just make money other ways. That’s why I’m a prostitute!” While everyone laughed and got the joke, she quickly added that she was “kidding” before anyone got the wrong idea. “Children, that was a joke!”

Asked if she had any favourite scenes or lines from her time on Babylon 5, she said, “I loved the Drazi episode, even though my foot was broken,” referring to the episode The Geometry of Shadows. “I didn’t like doing Boom Shakalaka, but I did love that episode, the alien sex episode,” speaking of Season 2’s Acts of Sacrifice. “It was just hilarious. I hated the dance, that was Joseph punishing me, but I loved working with Paul Williams and at the end when he says, ‘Next time, my way.’”

Another question had Claudia being asked if she ever wishes she wore prosthetics on Babylon 5, only to say that she was so relieved that she didn’t have to. “I was a human, it took me ten minutes to get ready. Mira [Furlan] went through hell with the eyes and the infections and all the make up. They were there at work at 3 o’clock in the morning. I would waltz in at 7:45am! I was so grateful I was a human. I know that sounds really weird! I really was! I did not envy them at all. The human make-up trailer was a cacophony of madness and jokes, and the alien trailer… everybody was listening to classical music and they were all meditating because they were miserable. I don’t ever want to do prosthetics.”

Claudia was then asked what drew her to acting and if it was something she always wanted to do. “I started acting because I had three older brothers and nobody ever listened to me,” she said. “When I was on stage I was just impressed by the fact that people were paying attention. It made me feel good to move people. When I got my first TV series when I was 18 I had no idea what to expect, because I’m a theatre brat. All I’d done was theatre. [But] the more you’re on a set the more you learn.”

On looking back during her time on Babylon 5 she said, “Everyday was a joy. It was a great cast, great crew, just fun people. I mean, Bruce Boxleitner, Jerry Doyle and I were always joking. Richard Biggs was one of the sweetest, kindest men you’ve ever known, and Peter Jurasik! I mean these are really quality people! It’s like going to work everyday with your best friends. We get together twice a year now. I see Mira regularly, Patricia Tallman is one of my best friends, I see Andrea Thompson – she’s my real estate agent! We’re like a family. That’s the most important thing I take away from it, those connections.” 

Claudia was finally asked how during writing Babylon Confidential, and looking back over all the things she has done, what was the most important life lesson she has learnt? “Friendship and love is the most important thing,” she said. “I’m incredibly driven and I really haven’t stopped and smelled the roses. Now is the first time in my life that I’m saying maybe it’s time to appreciate what you do have and not keep searching for what you don’t have. When you’re an artist, or actress, or writer, you’re always looking for the next big job. Work made me feel good about myself. You realise at the end of the day that has nothing to do with you as a person. I get more satisfaction now in helping people and saving lives. That’s so much more important than getting a movie. That makes me feel good at the end of the day. And it took me 30 years to learn that, to learn that that’s so much more important than being a star.”

As the panel came to a close Claudia thanked the fans for coming by to see her, saying, “It’s always great to be back in Birmingham!”

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