Julie Caitlin Brown:
When Babylon Five returns to television on TNT in a few days, Julie Caitlin Brown will be returning with it as Na'Toth, Ambassador G'Kar's no-nonsense aide. Brown has one of those resumes that make science fiction fans' eyes bug out in envy; she's been on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, and now she's back in a recurring role on B5.
There's only one drawback to all this: hours of makeup. And I mean hours.
"I can only do the makeup on an infrequent basis; it really affects my skin, and I was only in it a few days," she groans. "It takes two and a half hours for Na'Toth, but because the aliens I played on Star Trek and DS9 were more complicated - more blending to skin required, more regular beauty makeup and hair pieces - those characters actually took twice as long. Four to five hours!"
The role of Na'Toth was created when Mary Woronov, the actress who played G'Kar's original assistant Ko'Dath, bowed out because of the demands of the makeup. Then Susan Kellerman was cast as Na'Toth, but became so claustrophobic when the makeup was applied that she was forced to leave the role. Brown stepped in, made a great impression for five episodes...and stepped out again when she, too, found that the makeup was destroying her skin and with it her ability to take other roles.
From her first scene with G'Kar in "The Parliament of Dreams," however, it was obvious that Andreas Katsulas and Brown made a wonderful team. The two theatrically-trained actors spent a lot of time discussing the motivations and emotions of their characters, and worked hard to make the two aliens real to audiences. The scene in "Chrysalis," the first season finale, when Na'Toth tells G'Kar of the destruction of a Narn outpost, was one of the most moving moments of the first season.
Still, Brown found that she could not face another year recovering from the makeup. Na'Toth was recast, but the wonderful chemistry that Brown shared with Katsulas was gone, and the character was written out of the series - presumed dead during the Centauri attack on Narn. Brown returned to the series briefly as human lawyer Guenivere Corey, whom series creator J. Michael Straczynski told Brown that he had considered making a recurring character, but during season three the show went in another direction.
Now Brown is returning as Na'Toth. The actress can't talk about the details of the character's reappearance, but she does say that "it's some powerful stuff." Much has changed on the show this upcoming season, with the departure of Claudia Christian and Jason Carter. "Babylon 5 will be Babylon 5, regardless of who is there, because JMS has done such a great job of creating a complex and interesting world," she adds. "But I do think that if some of the aliens were changed, it would not be the same show."
"Obviously I cannot get inside the head of an alien, since I have never met one!" the actress laughs. "But, I do try to create as much of a 'life' for the character as I can, by gathering information from the writer and other actors playing those [same] aliens. If it is a new alien, as in the case of Ty Kajada on DS9, I was told by my director that it was my playground, and that basically I could make up what I wanted as long as it stemmed from the details of the script."
Kajada, a Kobliad from the episode "The Passenger," was an intergalactic law officer of sorts pursuing a character who appeared to be dead, but wasn't. On TNG, Brown played Vekor in the two-part episode "Gambit" - a member of a team of thieves in pursuit of a deadly Vulcan artifact, with whom Picard and Riker join forces to stop the criminals from obtaining the device.
"I was asked to audition by Ron Surma after working on DS9," the actress reports. "They needed a tall, tough, alien - guess they thought I fit the bill! I loved working on that set. The hours were horrendous, compared to Babylon 5, but very professional and we were well taken care of." Though she played morally ambiguous characters on both Trek series, Brown laughs that she enjoys being a villain: "As my son says, 'Mom, you play a great bitch, cause you're not one.' Please do not misquote me!"
Because Na'Toth was a more complex, ongoing role, Brown did some thinking not just about the character's backstory but about the entire Narn species. She believes that Narn was at one time a matriarchy, and a peaceful society. "The men did what men always do when confronted with attack - they attacked back!" she theorizes. "The changeover on Narn came from the invasion of the Centauri...a matter of survival, really." She discussed this background with Straczynski when she took the role, so that the actress could confront who Na'Toth was and where she came from.
"I believed that it was Na'Toth's wish that the women would someday have the influence to bring their society back to a more balanced place, that strength would be measured in character, not force," she adds. Like many contemporary human women, Na'Toth decided to meet the men on their own turf, to learn their tactics in politics and war. "But in her heart, she wants to return to the peaceful society of the past."
Asked about the sorts of roles available to women in the film industry, the very tall, striking actress responds, "I think, by and large, roles are changing for women, as women are changing." However, she worries that women in films are doing the same thing women did in the corporate world to get a foot in the door, "which is to become 'more male' in order to be taken seriously." She thinks that "as women accept that our strength and intrigue lies in our femininity, we will create and demand roles that reflect that."
Fans don't always recognize Julie Caitlin Brown at conventions because she's best-known for playing aliens. "The more magazine articles I do, the more recognizable I am to the fans, of course, but for the most part, I still have to tell them who I am," she admits. Because she's a character actor, people don't always make the connection between her onscreen persona and herself. A veteran of many television shows, including Point Man, Raven, Vanishing Son, JAG, and Renegade, she was also featured in the films Lover's Knot and The Book with Peter Fonda and in the TV movie Roxanne: The Prize Pulitzer.
A singer-songwriter and would-be writer-producer as well as an actress, Brown starred in the Broadway musical Grand Hotel and has done cabaret shows in Los Angeles and San Francisco. She recently completed her first CD, entitled "Sheddin' My Skin." She describes the "Americana music" as "rather eclectic, ranging from R&B to country," and says it blends rock, folk, jazz, and blues styles. Brown credits her science fiction fans with making the album possible. As a thank-you, she is inviting fans to request order forms from her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, and sending autographed official Na'Toth collector cards with orders from fans.
Brown's next project may be a science fiction show in England, which she was invited to appear in along with her fiance, actor Craig Damon. "They thought he would be perfect as one of two characters, either my love interest or my antagonist - guess which one he picked? Of course, my enemy, more fun!" she laughs. She is currently executive producing a television special about hiring the physically challenged.
And it's probable she'll be back as Na'Toth...once she's recovered from the makeup again!