I Married A Vorlon…And Other Tales From Beyond The Rim: A Conversation with Patricia Tallman (Part 2)
Posted on September 2, 2003
Note: I did a little poking around on Facebook today and it looks like Pat does have a Babylon 5 Scrapbook that she’s releasing on August 17, 2001. Not sure about anyone else, but I’m definitely looking forward to getting my hands on a copy! Anyone interested can order it here.
Now, onto the second part of the interview:
KG: With your work in musicals, are you planning on ever coming out with your own CD like fellow Babylon 5 alumni Claudia Christian?
PT: No. No. I don’t have that great a voice. My friend Robin Atkin Downes, who was also on Babylon 5 and played my boyfriend…
KG: The one you were naked with in Season 5!
PT: Oh, my God. It’s a good thing my husband has a great sense of humor because Robin and I are best friends. To have to get naked with him and in front of the crew was really, really devastatingly scary, awful, mortifying…but when I did it, Robin was just like “Oh, nice boobs!” and we got over it. The crew was very professional. The first thing that happened–this is how scared I was–I have to take off my jacket and the camera is at my back so you can’t see my breasts, Robin is sitting on the bed and I’m supposed to take off my jacket and sit down on the bed and then he kisses me or something. Anyway, we sit down on the bed. I missed the bed and fell on the floor and I really wanted everybody to laugh and nobody did. They didn’t want me to feel bad, but at the same time it made me feel worse. (laughs)
KG: Tell me about Penny Lane and how you become involved with the organization.
PT: We first got involved about a dozen years ago when a stunt woman named Spice Williams got a group of stunt people together for a kids day at Penny Lane, like Christmas Day, only it was healthy food and stunts, we did tricks for them and different celebrities would come and things like that. Nothing was ever done as far as money being raised, though. Then, when I started doing conventions and signing autographs, I felt a little taken for granted that I didn’t charge. You know, because dealers were coming over and people were having me sign 45 things at once, so I thought okay, I’m going to ask for $5 a signature and I’ll put it to charity and that’s what I did and I raised over $75,000 doing that. I built a computer lab for the kids because they didn’t have one and also so that they could have some kind of computer literacy in order to compete in the world on a little better basis.
KG: For those people who aren’t familiar with Penny Lane, tell us a bit about it.
PT: Penny Lane is a home for emotionally and physically abused children and we service California, Nevada, Arizona…we get kids from all over the West. It was the first place of its kind and was founded almost 30 years ago by a woman parole officer. She had 50 girls she couldn’t place because they were so damaged. They had been raped, some by their own families, and they were so damaged that they couldn’t be put in regular foster care, so there was no place for them to go. They were dangerous to themselves and to others, so she created Penny Lane on a wing and a prayer. I mean, the story is phenomenal. Penny Lane has obviously grown since then and there are 104 kids in the main residence, then there are like 1,500 serviced as outpatients, they have a foster family program for kids who can be in a foster family, there’s now an adoption family center, which is brand new, and they’re raising $2 million dollars to try and build a new building because theirs was destroyed in an earthquake. It’s just a phenomenal grass roots little organization that does a major big thing.
KG: And you’ve stayed active with them?
PT: Yes. I started a program for the kids called “Be A Santa” and what I do is, like in October, I go around and I talk to the 104 kids, get a Christmas list from each kid of 5 things they’d really like for Christmas, I put it up on-line, under anonymous names of course, and then anyone who wants to donate the Barbie doll, the book or the gift certificate or whatever they can send in can. It’s really fun! I had donations from Israel, people from the UK…so we get donations from everywhere. 70 people donated last year and made Christmas really happy for 104 kids who would not have had a Christmas at all. It’s really amazing and everyone gives from maybe $5 or $10 to $500. The writers over on C.S.I. gave $500. I try to go around to the studios where I still have some connections and get donations that way as well.
KG: I understand you’re in the process of starting a new on-line radio show.
PT: I know. It’s going to be on www.theblackvault.com, which was started by a young man named John Greenwald who is really like the X-Files. He’s like the Lone Gunmen all by himself. He’s the coolest and he started a radio show, only he just can’t keep up with it because he’s so popular and he asked me to do a Sci-Fi TV one. It can be whatever I want as often as I want or not. You know, once a month, once a year. He said the fans are asking for it. So, I’ve got to figure it out because whereas I’m obviously in Sci-Fi TV, I’m not in all the shows that the fans are interested in. I don’t really have connections to Farscape, not that it’s on anymore.
KG: Big source of pain and anguish here! I’m a Farscaper.
PT: Oh, it’s a fabulous show and the end of it was very confusing…devastating. So, I have to figure out exactly what the content is going to be and at first I thought “Oh, sure, I’ll do it!”, then I was like “Oh, my God. This is really an enormous responsibility!” He wants it to be like an hour an episode.
KG: Considering the breadth of your work, you must have quite a diverse following of fans.
PT: I’m really lucky. Today, I had some people talking to me about my work in things that weren’t genre-related that they had actually bothered to find and watch. I’m so grateful for that and they said “You’re such a fine actress and we’ll watch anything you do” and I was so touched by that. To be able to go to a convention and get that kind of feedback because when you do television, you don’t get feedback. When you do movies, if you go to the theater and listen to the audience, you might get some feedback and when you’re on stage you have immediate feedback, but when you just do TV, it can really be like you’re in a tunnel by yourself. The producers kind of want you to always feel like your job is not secure, so you never got any praise from producers ever…ever. In fact, it’s just the opposite. They would find strange things to criticize me about, like the way I walked. I said: “I’m in high heels walking on a grate on the set.” “Well, Jerry (Doyle) wasn’t walking like that.” To which I replied: “I didn’t know Jerry wore high heels.” What an idiotic thing to criticize me about, but they would never say “That was a kick ass scene!” They would never say that.
The day I had to do my nude scene with Robin, I had a huge dialogue scene and then the nude scene, Douglass Netter (Ed. Note: Executive Producer) brought like 50 studio execs in for a walkthrough. It was a closed set and he knew that, then I had to get into that Vorlon tube and do this underwater thing all in the same day. Nobody ever said “Good job. Good work. Great episode. Thanks for getting naked.” Nothing. That was really a shame and that comes from the top. That doesn’t come from the guys on the set. It’s the people in Warner Bros. who are in charge of the show just never wanting you to feel like you’re doing a good job, so when you come to a convention, it’s such a blessing to hear good feedback. I think that’s why we do it. It’s not because we’re making a ton of money at conventions. We’re not. You know, but it’s a great thing to be able to do.
KG: How often do you do the convention circuit?
PT: Not very often and I don’t have any others lined up. I don’t plan on doing any for another year or so, maybe more. I don’t know. I used to do it a lot. I like the old way we did cons that were more fan-run and I’d get to go backstage and talk to everybody, I’d get to go to events and be part of it, like be on the panel of a costume judging contest, and then sit at a table for a couple of hours and sign until everybody had their autographs. Just sitting in a convention center is really hard. Sitting at a table, whether you have people coming up to you or not, it’s hard. It’s not easy for any actor. Trust me on that.
KG: Aside from the conventions, how do you keep in touch with your fan base?
PT: My website, the Galactic Gateway. Barb Powell and Red Johnston designed it and we’re updating it more and more. I think we’re really doing well with keeping in touch with the fans too. We have a wonderful web board, we respond to fans, we try to schedule chats and it does take a community to keep it interesting. We all have full time jobs and lives, so we need everybody to drop in tidbits and that’s what makes it fun. “Oh, you know so-and-so just submitted a new story and we have it up on this page” or “There’s some pictures up from the last con”.
KG: With so much going on in your life, is there anything you can’t do and what else is out there for you to conquer?
PT: A lot of things. There’s never enough time, is there? Being a mom has broadened my life in so many ways, but it’s also very limiting as far as what you can do with your time and energy. Julian (Ed. Note: Pat’s son) has to come first and everything else is second. Now that he’s bigger, I’ve actually been able to do more theater, which is good, because he doesn’t need me to tuck him in every single night. I’d like to do more camping and I want to get back to scuba diving, which I haven’t done since I was pregnant. Theater and working would be really good. I really want to work.
KG: You seem to be very vibrant about work!
PT: I try. It’s just that at my age now…
KG: You’re not that old.
PT: I’m not, but anyone over 25 in LA, you’re just over the hill. There are so many wonderful actresses in my age range who have fabulous resumes and the competition is tremendous for very few roles, very few. They’ll say “Oh, look, there’s more women’s movies.” Well, there are women’s movies with stars. I don’t think that Bacall and Meryl will have to worry about their next movies and people want Julianne Moore in their next movie, so they don’t have that problem. For somebody in our category who has a really good resume and is in between say late 30s and mid 40s, there’s not a lot. I’ll never understand our business for that, but it’s what I do.
KG: What’s important in your life right now? You previously mentioned your son.
PT: In fact, he’s been so important that I really haven’t thought about what else is important. Maybe that’s sort of what’s going on with me right now is that I’m trying to figure out what else is important because now I have a little more freedom with him being more mature.
KG: And now, my signature question. Fans tend to see their favorite actors as larger than life and don’t always get a chance to see below the surface at the person underneath. What you would like your fans to know about you as a person, as a wife and mother and as an artist when they think of you?
PT: Well, that I’m not depressed like Lyta, but I have concerns about the world. I’m sure that everybody has been very bummed out since 9/11 and going to war. It’s been tremendously difficult for everyone and I feel sad so much of the time without being able to exactly identify why I’m just sad. You know, I think that maybe fans or people who are not in television think that people who are in television are more in touch or know more than they do and we don’t. We feel the same things exactly. In fact, it’s worse because the first thing that people stop doing is the unnecessary, so you don’t go to the movies as often, so people don’t make so many movies, so we don’t get cast in movies. Hollywood has never been as depressed as it is right now, people losing homes who have never been out of work. So maybe just to know that we’re all in the same boat.
I would like to extend a huge thank you to Pat for graciously giving me her time and also to Barb for keeping the communication going and answering all my e-mails while trying to set this up.
As a final note, I don’t believe the Galactic Gateway is a functioning site anymore, but folks who’d like to catch up with Pat can do so on her Facebook Fan page.
Kristoffer Gair (who formerly wrote under the pseudonym Kage Alan) is the Detroit-based author of Honor Unbound, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To My Sexual Orientation, Andy Stevenson Vs. The Lord Of The Loins, Gaylias: Operation Thunderspell, several short stories featured in anthologies (to be combined in a forthcoming book), the recently re-published novella Falling Awake, its sequel, Falling Awake II: Revenant and Falling Awake III: Requiem.