As Babylon 5 nears the end of its fifth and most likely, final season, series creator J. Michael Straczynski is busily tying up some of the plot threads that have been dangling for quite some time. When an episode entitled 'The Fall of Centauri Prime', it's pretty obvious what much of the story deals with, and just as likely that it will concern a certain big-haired emperor-to-be.
"It's the check and checkmate part for the Londo character," claims Peter Jurasik, who's seen his Centauri alter-ego moving along a dark and preordained path for the past five seasons. Now, just a few days before starting 'The Fall of Centauri Prime', the actor is clearly thrilled by the events that lie ahead.
"It's where the circle is fully completed and Joe Straczynski drops him into a spot where he's cornered, that there are no other moves to be made. It's really wonderful, to take this character let him finish in a sense.
"Very rarely have I felt real true sentiment and deep-felt emotion about the end of a character or a series, but reading this episode that Joe has written so beautifully, I can't wait to do it. It's great stuff, all really broad strokes; it reminds me of the end of a symphony; the final, long extended notes, and Joe has written it in that sense. It's all big steps towards the inevitable end."
Back to the beginning
In a sense, Jurasik has already lived through much of his character's final fate, because of various flash-forward sequences scattered throughout the run of Babylon 5. The most recent of these glimpses took place in the TV movie 'In the Beginning', where the ageing Londo tells the story of the Earth-Minbari War, and his own part in it as a young ambassador.
"The television movie was a wonderful experience all around. Mike Vejar
directed it, and he's among my favourite directors. I loved the idea of
Londo old and young and telling his story to the kids, and the fact
that so much of it is confessional, just pouring out his heart. What's wonderful from my point of view is it adds another bit of angst and guilt and complexity and neurosis to Londo's already fairly complex psyche. It's one more thing to feel guilty and tense and to worry about."
Looking back, the actor admits finding it more challenging to play the young and headstrong Londo, as opposed to the ageing emperor. "It's a lot more difficult to strip stuff away," he explains, "than to pile it on for the older man, even though there is a part of me that philosophically thinks that life is about letting stuff go. Most of the time, we pile baggage up in life and carry more and more of it, so to go back and play the younger guy, I had to peel stuff away, and then you end up feeling like the character is emotionally thinner and lighter, and it's an odd way to walk around with him."
Jurasik says most of the early episodes of Season 5 continue to redefine the unique relationship between Londo and his former nemesis, G'kar. "Andreas (Katsulas) is always saying-- and he doesn't mean it in a bad way-- 'it will be fun when I get to do scenes with other people!' I don't take it personally, but I can certainly understand his point of view.
"I've only had one or two scenes with Mira (Furlan) in the entire series, a couple of lines with Tracy (Scoggins), partially because of the characters but also because the stories run in series next to each other/ Lyta and Bester and Byron have a completely different storyline running in a different direction that doesn't have anything to do with me, but also because Londo needs to be isolated more and more. The nature of his arc, the Faustus story is that Londo has to be isolated and pulled away from the people he loves, and poor Andreas and Stephen (Furst) are the guys who get stuck hanging out with me."
In the fifth season opener, 'No Compromises', many of the regular characters take a back seat as the episode introduces the station's new commanding officer, Captain Lochley, played by Tracy Scoggins.
"(It was) getting Tracy going and getting everything back on track and moving forward and starting to mix all the characters up again. In that sense, where some fans might be disappointed, I think Joe is being really sensitive to the cast and crew in trying to put work on the table that's going to make sense for where we're at. That was our first go with Tracy and without Claudia and the first time back after a pretty gruelling hiatus doing those movies, so I think Joe was throwing us an easy one so we could hit it."
Ironically, it was a different kind of seat that showed the new Captain what she was getting into. Jurasik jokingly recalls the first day of filming, during which virtually all of the male cast members fought for position on a small couch between scenes-- leaving Scoggins to fend for herself.
"That was horrible, to see her face, as she's thinking, 'What did I join here? What a bunch of selfish chauvinistic pigs these guys are!' The scene would end, and everyone would dash for the couch, and there were Tracy and Mira standing quietly in the middle of the room, and Jerry, Rick and Bruce and Adreas and I were like little boys, shoving each other to see which three people would get to sit on the couch."
The next episode 'The Very Long Night of Londo Mollari', marked a major turning point for Jurasik's character, as Londo suffers a near-death experience, and is forced to confront some of the mistakes he made in the past. "People have been very complimentary and very enthusiastic about the episode, and as a whole, I thought it turned out pretty darned good. The dream sequence could have gone a little further. In a sense, it got out there pretty far, but I wish it could have been extended a little further. That's pretty difficult to do in television.
"For the most part, I was pretty satisfied with it, and the fans can't bitch because they got to see the tentacle; whenever you get a little flash like that, hey, you're getting a little extra for your money. The most fun part of the entire episode were those dream scenes, to do the gypsy scenes with Mira, or walking through the Zocalo with Bruce, or having Andreas do Cartagia and for me to play a Narn. That's fun stuff, and stuff we don't normally get a chance to do. For Babylon 5, you can't get a bigger tease than to say, 'Andreas will play a Centauri and Peter will play a Narn'. That sounds like a fun episode, and in that sense, it was."
While the relationship between Londo and G'kar is by no means a comfortable one during the fifth season, at least the two characters are no longer trying to kill each other, and that's certainly a start. In fact, pressed for some of his favourite memories form the series, most of Jurasik's choices involve the former Narn ambassador, usually in moments of emotional tension.
"We've had a couple of episodes where Joe has pushed the two characters into closer proximity. The elevator scene (in 'Convictions') was one of those, but now we've had two or three scenes on Centauri and one on Narn where our characters are pushed into these little 10 by 10 areas, and have to relate. Those specific scenes have become some of my favourite work now. Andreas jokingly makes fun of the fact that Joe gives Londo a lot of lines and G'kar has to sit quietly and watch, but the truth is, when you look at the scenes, you see how much Andreas pours into them and how much I'm getting as an actor.
"When I look back and talk about some of my favourite work, I can't help but mix in heavily the idea of who I'm working with and how the day went; that's what I mean when I say I remember my failures more than anything else. Wonderful scenes come out of long, hard days, and Andreas and I get pushed into a little 10 by 10 room and you think, 'We're going to go insane, the whole crew in here!' but some wonderful work comes out of it."
A View From the Gallery
In many ways, G'kar becomes Londo's conscience in Season 5, bringing up issues that Londo has to deal with. In 'A View from the Gallery', for example, Londo admits that he never grew up, he simply grew old. "There's some very powerful stuff in there about childhood, where Londo says, 'I was never a child'. It reflects more on the traditions of the Centauri and how seriously that tragic flaw is in Londo's character that he's such a patriot and is so attached to what the Centauri mean, he's got it too deeply ingrained in him, and now you realise he's had it in him since he was a kid, this idea of responsibility."
Day of the Dead
Londo's last moment of true happiness may well take place in the episode 'The Day of the Dead', where a Brakiri religious holiday briefly reunites him with lost love, Adira. "I'm not a person who likes the sentimental or romanticised part if Londo's story much," insists Jurasik, "but I felt it really stood up. The overall episode was so solid, this idea of the Day of the Dead, and the dead characters coming back. So much has been played into how Adira was to Londo so to have one more go at it-- to say nothing about jumping into bed with Fabiana (Udenio) for a day-- it was really wonderful to play it out and remember it one more time."
And that brings the discussion back to Londo's imminent meeting with destiny. "We've just shot some of the outdoor scenes, so I've already had on the white underwear," Jurasik quips. "Once you slip on the underwear with the royal seal on it, so your personality changes, so I'm ready to go!"
Finally, on a more philosophical note, the actor adds, "When you get a really good script, you just sit on it and it will take you there. I think it's going to be like being on a surfboard, I'm just going to ride it to the shore."
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