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Na'Toth, Naturally

An interview with Caitlin Brown by David Basson.

Published in Babylon 5, the official monthly magazine, #3, November 1997

Babylon 5 is copyright Warner Brothers.

Actress Caitlin Brown talks about her role as Ambassador G'Kar's diplomatic attache, Na'Toth, in Babylon 5's first season.

More than three years have passed since Caitlin Brown last portrayed Na'Toth, yet the actress is still fondly remembered as the Narn warrior by Babylon 5 fans around the world. Brown feels a combination of surprise and pride towards her continuing association with both Na'Toth and the B5 universe.

"It's really an honour and a blessing to have played a character who was as well-written and as interesting as Na'Toth," she explains. "As an actor, all you ever want to do is tell a story, touch peoples' lives and move something inside them. Na'Toth clearly touched people because the fans still remember her and continue to care about her. So I'm delighted that people still remember me for playing Na'Toth. It's really quite wonderful."

Brown first became involved with B5 back in 1992, when she auditioned for the role of Ambassador Delenn in the show's feature-length pilot, The Gathering. "They were looking for a Karen Akers-type to play Delenn," she recalls. "I had replaced Karen in the Grand Hotel stage play on Broadway, so when a call came out for an Akers-type, my agent sent me over to read for Delenn. They wanted a sort of androgynous look. I walked in, did the reading and it was fine, but I didn't hear anything more about it afterwards.

"When the show went to a series the following year, they called me back to read for Ivanova. I really think that part of the reason why I didn't get the part is that I'm very tall - I'm just about six feet tall - and they wanted their men to look really imposing and tall. So I was just too big for the part!"

After narrowly missing out on the roles of Delenn and Ivanova, Brown finally found the perfect vehicle for her talents in the form of Na'Toth. Yet the story behind her being cast as the feisty Narn is anything but straightforward.

When the weekly series of B5 originally entered production in the summer of 1993, Mary Wornov (of Eating Raoul fame) was set to play Ambassador G'Kar's (Andreas Katsulas) regular assistant, Ko'Dath. Although Wornov made her debut as Ko'Dath in the first season's third instalment, Born to the Purple, she later decided that she could not face the make-up process again and left the series. In response to Wornov's departure, series creator and executive producer J. Michael Straczynski created a second Narn diplomatic attache, Na'Toth, played by Susan Kellerman. Unfortunately on her first morning of filming Na'Toth's introductory episode, Parliament of Dreams, Kellerman suffered a bout of claustrophobia and decided to quit, leaving the show's producers with an unexpected gap on their call sheet.

Charged with the task of finding an actress to portray Na'Toth straight away, B5's casting director Mary Jo Slater turned to Caitlin Brown, an experienced stage and screen actress who had proven her ability to deal with extensive prosthetics by playing aliens in episodes of Star Trek: the Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

"I was paged at 10.00am and was on the set at 1.00pm," recalls Brown. "They did a make-up test, and then handed me five scripts and two tapes, told me to go home and report to work at 10.00am the following day. I didn't even have to audition!"

On reading the script for Parliament of Dreams, Brown immediately realised that Na'Toth was more than just a comic foil for Ambassador G'Kar.

"The writing for the show is just so wonderful," she explains. "Joe Straczynski does not write one-dimensional characters. He writes very deep, three-dimensional characters. So Na'Toth had a lot of depth. She wasn't just a 'sidekick' character; she was very clear about what she wanted and how she was going to get it.

"Also, Na'Toth always had an ulterior motive. There's a secret side to Na'Toth that, had I stayed on the show, would have been revealed. She always had her own agenda, and her trying to get the Human telepath to Narn [in Legacies] was part of that. The scene where the telepath says, 'I looked into her mind and it was cold and dark and alien' was deliberate - it was kinda hinting about Na'Toth's secret agenda. I loved the character, bigtime."

Indeed, Brown felt so strongly about portraying Na'Toth that she decided to develop her own backstory for the Narn race, based on hints from Joe Straczynski. "There's a scene in one episode [By Any Means Necessary] where G'Kar asks Na'Toth, 'What do you believe in?' and she says, 'I believe in myself, Ambassador'. But that's not entirely true.

"My story for her was that many, many centuries ago, the planet of Narn was run by the women and it was a very peaceful society. It was only when the Centauri invaded Narn that this matriarchal society was overthrown. So, in her heart, Na'Toth wants the peaceful society that her grandmother and great grandmother had told her about - she really wants the women back in power."

As the new Narn on the block, Brown had no problems fitting in with B5's cast and crew. "Everyone made me feel so at home that it quickly became one of the best acting experiences I've ever had," she says. "I think the best thing about B5 is the actors the crew and the whole energy of that set. It's a very warm set and a very fun group of people, and when you're there, it's quite a shock because it's not a big studio - it's not Paramount's lot, where you go off and eat lunch by yourself in your trailer. B5 is catered every day and you all eat together under the tent, and that really promotes the camaraderie. I loved that."

The actress reserves special praise for her partner in Narn diplomacy, Andreas Katsulas. "Andreas and I had a wonderful rapport from the moment we met," she remarks. "He was very sweet to me from the minute I walked in. We both genuinely liked each other and cared about what was going on in the show. We spent a lot of time together talking about our characters and their motivations."

Despite her diplomatic status, Na'Toth was never one to shy away from a fight. Consequently, Caitlin Brown seized the opportunity to film two major fight sequences during her tour of duty aboard B5.

"I love doing action scene," she says. "I had a great time attacking Andreas' stunt double [for Parliament of Dreams]. Before we shot the scene, I said to him, 'I want you to know that I think you're a wonderful person and I hope this doesn't get in the way of our friendship, but I am going to beat the hell out of you!' It was great fun - so much fun, in fact, that I accidentally kicked the camera at one point!

"They originally didn't want me to do the fight scene in Deathwalker, because it was very, very involved. But I just kept saying, 'I've already done one fight scene for you. Please let me do this one', and in the end, they did. The stunt woman was very gracious, and let me beat the crap out of her!"

Brown's very favourite moment as Na'Toth came during her fifth episode, Chrysalis. "I love the scene with G'Kar where I tell him all the Narn warriors at our outpost are dead. That's the scene where Na'Toth and G'Kar bond.

"When Na'Toth first boards B5, she looks at G'Kar rather like a buffoon - someone who is always yelling and screaming and making scenes, and not acting appropriately. But Na'Toth begrudgingly comes to respect G'Kar as time goes on, and in that scene in Chrysalis, she makes the decision to really back him and be behind him. That scene represents a moment of change for G'Kar because something he thought would never happen has happened, and he can't hide or pretend or play the politician any more. Now it's personal. It was also a wonderful moment because you get to see Na'Toth's sensitive, feminine side."

Sadly, Chrysalis was destined to be Brown's final visit to B5 as a Narn. At the end of the show's first season, the actress reluctantly decided not to renew her contract with the show, due largely to the practical problems of wearing Na'Toth's extensive prosthetics and red contact lenses.

"You have to wear an awful lot of makeup to play Na'Toth," she explains. "It is a very, very demanding role. You're working 15 to 18 hours a day and you can't breathe. There were times when I couldn't see where I was going, because of the contact lenses - it was all just a red fuzz. And I lost so much weight working on the show, because I sweated it all away underneath that costume! So the makeup was probably the biggest deterrent for me; I couldn't sign on and say, 'Yes, I'll do this for 13 episodes for another four years'.

"I loved the character, and I truly cried when I turned the part down. I was sobbing. I remember calling my mother and telling her, 'I don't know what to do. This is one of the best-written characters I've ever come across. She's going to have a lot to do, but I just don't feel right.' She then advised me not to do it. But it was still a hard decision to make. I was honestly sobbing when I had to turn it down."

Following Brown's departure, Na'Toth was played by Mary Kay Adams, and then written out of the series. While Na'Toth is widely believed to have died during the Centauri attack on the Narn homeworld, her fate remains shrouded in mystery and therefore open to debate.

"I would have liked to have come back and done an episode in which Na'Toth could have been killed off appropriately," admits Brown. "I would have loved to have had a big showdown with G'Kar. I could have come back and tried to stage a coup and betray him somehow. And then I could have been killed off so the main storyline could have stayed on track. I've told Joe that I would love to do a few occasional appearances, but I think he's enjoying making G'Kar a lone wolf."

Fortunately, Brown's decision not to play Na'Toth on a regular basis has not affected her relationship with B5's cast and crew. "I've remained very close to everyone on the show. I also see Joe and [producer] John Copeland quite regularly. We're all still friends!"

As if to prove her point, Brown returned to the show's soundstages during its second season to play an EarthForce lawyer, Guinevere Corey, in There All the Honor Lies.

"I really enjoyed doing that episode," she says. "I loved playing a fast-talking, witty woman, and it was great working with Bruce Boxleitner [Captain Sheridan]. The characters had a quick repartee, and their scene had a very Hepburn/Tracey attitude. I loved it."

The actress guest-starred in There All the Honor Lies billed under her real name, Julie Caitlin Brown. Consequently, many viewers didn't realise that she was the same person who had brought Na'Toth to life during B5's first season. "A lot of fans didn't know it was me," she laughs. "They couldn't imagine that, looking like I look, I had played Na'Toth. They don't realise just how elaborate the make-up process is to become a Narn.

"It's funny, but when I was playing Na'Toth, I had my own friends call up and say 'I was watching the show, where were you?' I was right there, but they didn't realise it was me! But if they watched Na'Toth smile and listened to her voice, then they could pretty much tell that it was me."

Post-B5, Brown has kept herself busy with roles in a host of film and TV productions, including Murder Live, Lover's Knot, Vanishing Son, JAG, Point Man and Baywatch Nights. The actress hasn't turned her back on B5 or its fans, however, as she continues to attend science fiction conventions, and also enjoys corresponding with viewers via the Internet.

"The fans have been really wonderful," she remarks. "I can't believe how incredibly nice the fans have been when I've met them in person. I wish them all the best and am truly glad that they enjoy the show.

"Talking to fans on the Internet is just amazing! I welcome fans writing in, and I promise I'll write back to everyone."

Today, Brown is currently working on an album, a screenplay and a one-woman show entitled Happy with the Blues. Her ultimate ambition is to run her own production company, which would "give a voice to projects where people are taking a risk and saying things they really believe in." No matter where Caitlin Brown's career leads, however, B5 will always hold a special place in her heart.

"B5 continues to be one of the top acting experiences of my career," she states firmly. "The care with which the show has been created and the quality of the cast and crew are singular. The ability to travel and meet the show's fans has been a blessing, and I am tremendously appreciative of the opportunity to connect with so many people just because I was lucky enough to get to do a job I truly enjoyed."

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Na'Toth's little page of homage/Julie Caitlin Brown/interviews/created by Lynne/last modified 12th October 1999.