"Marjorie Monaghan: Looking Out for Number One" by Lou Anders
Babylon 5 Magazine
August 1998, Vol. 2, Issue 1, page 28
Babylon 5 Customs is positively bustling this morning. Humans and aliens of every shape and size are squeezing through. There's a tall, beautiful blond, Theresa Halloran, trying to get past Zack, but the Chief is giving her a hard time. What's that? You don't recognise the name? No matter. You know her quite well, and you'll be just as glad as I was to have her back in Babylon 5. Theresa, or Tessa to her friends, is the real name of Martian resistance leader, Number One.
Now that the war for independence is over, she can quit hiding behind that number and take her place in the new provisional government. And Zack's just doing his job. He's not satisfied that her documents are legit. Things could get sticky, but Tessa's friend Doctor Franklin shows up. After he's pulled her out of this sticky situation (several times, through several takes), then I get to get her to myself. So, midday, when the shoot has moved onto the Zocalo, Marjorie Monaghan and I find some chairs in an unoccupied cargo bay to catch up on my favorite Martian.
We've not seen Monaghan on these sets since the fourth season, so my first and most obvious question for her is to ask how it feels to be back. "It's fun," she says, and I can hear the sincerity in her voice. "It's really lots of fun. I love this character. And I love the people. It's so much fun to work with Jerry [Doyle] and Rick [Biggs]. I don't get to work with Pat [Tallman] which is unfortunate, but I did get to see her, and we've been in touch. But, it's good to have her [Tessa] in a different situation now. You know, her life has changed dramatically, and it's so much fun to be exploring her."
Now that the PPG bursts has stopped flying, Tessa has to shift gears from rebel leader to diplomatic representative. I wonder how Monaghan is finding this change in her character's method of operating. "Well, she's not so much a diplomat, really," she responds, putting a playfully devilish tilt to her voice. "She's trying to be a diplomat."
"Her driving purpose has always been Mars, to get Mars free and now to keep it that way, because, when you have a revolution, it's almost inevitably followed by a civil war, and she knows this. That's part of the deal, because people are like, 'We won! We won!' 'Okay, fine, but you've got to keep it together, because it's all going to fall apart unless we work at it.' They discuss that.
"I have a scene in this episode where I say stuff is falling apart because people are bickering, and I cannot let that happen. So to that extent, their rebellion is still alive, but my character's life has changed. I'm not in danger of being killed every day. I can sleep in the same bed more than two nights in a row without worrying about getting caught and killed. So that has changed, but the battle is the same. It's a little more difficult, because it's slightly unfamiliar territory. Having to deal with diplomats, and wanting to shoot them or hit them, you know, is kind of tough. Her mission, her crusade, has always been Mars. It's odd that in order to best serve Mars, she has to go somewhere else to keep it all together."
For my money, the fact that the planet in question is Mars informs the way I think about it. The scenarios Straczynski outlines for the red planet seem to be very likely ones to actually occur one day as Human expansion takes us out into the solar system. So I ask Marjorie if the fact that it is Mars, and not a fictitious world, colours her perspective in any way. "No, not really," she says, adding, "What I"m more connected with is my Irish ancestry, and that connection to the land. This is an incredibly beleaguered planet and it's hers, and this must be protected; this must be saved. That's what I felt about it immediately."
Practically an entire season of Babylon 5 has come and gone since Monaghan last appeared. That's a lot of time for the actress to soak up some fan adulation, which, she says "Has been very gratifying.
"People are so welcoming and so genuine and really enjoy this character. Whenever you do a character, they mean a lot to you. And when you do television or film, you don't get an immediate reaction. You know what you're doing , but you don't know what people are seeing. So when you go to these conventions and you get this tremendous reaction -- that other people really care about this woman and what she's doing and these relationships -- it's really quite amazing.
"Because of doing conventions, I've had people respond to other science fiction work that I've done. But the convention process is the first time that ever happened. It's the only real sense, other than fan mail here and there, that you get of how people respond to your work."
In between these convention appearances (including two weeks spent in the UK), Marjorie has found time to appear in another film. Prior to Christmas, she starred in Sorcerers for director Albert Pyun, which she describes as being based on the story of the Three Musketeers, but set in the future. "My character's name is Cree, and she's based on Athos. All of the scenery and half the cast are computer generated. So we shot it on a sound stage. It's like doing a play. But it was great fun, and Albert's an amazing director. I can't wait to see how it comes out."
Meanwhile, she's quite happy to be back on Babylon 5. And events in Objects in Motion, which I won't reveal here, do seem to indicate that Tess Halloran might just become a familiar face around this station. With that in mind, I ask Marjorie what the possibilities are for her character to make future appearances in this particular universe, especially with a spin-off show in the offing.
"I don't know," she says. "I hope, lots and lots! I'd love to, because I love the show. I love working with these people, and I love this character."
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