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Bruce Boxleitner: From BABYLON 5 to the OUTER LIMITS
Catching up with actor's latest endeavors.
By Frank Garcia
June 26, 2000
You knew him as Luke Macahan in the 1970s How the West Was Won
mini-series, as Billy Montana in three Gambler
TV movies, as Frank Buck in the short-lived 1982 series Bring 'Em Back Alive
, as the title character Tron
in the Disney feature, as Lee Stetson in the 1980s series Scarecrow and Mrs. King
and most recently as John Sheridan in Babylon 5
It's been more than a year and a half since Babylon 5
fans witnessed Sheridan's final fate, when he piloted a White Star vessel into space and disappeared somewhere 'beyond the rim' in the series' final episode, 'Sleeping in Light.' It was a very emotional, sad conclusion for many B5 fans. But what has life after four years on Babylon 5
been like for actor Bruce Boxleitner, who played Sheridan and each of these diverse characters?
At the moment, he's on the set of The Outer Limits
in Vancouver, Canada, playing a presidential candidate. In the episode 'Decompression,' written by Brad Wright and James Crocker, Boxleitner is Senator Wyndom Brody, a man who's visited by a female stranger who repeatedly appears throughout his campaign. She warns him not to board his aircraft because it's going to crash. Brody can't dismiss her warnings, because apparently no one but him can see her. 'My campaign workers and people around me think I'm going out of my mind,' says Boxleitner. 'I'm faced with a decision, who's going to live or die?'
For Brody, the decision about whether or not to board the plane becomes crucial, because it effects not just his life, but the entire future. 'I will become instrumental in the development of time travel,' explains Boxleitner. 'My presidency will foster the environment of this research. If I don't get off this plane, history will be altered. Destiny is in my bare hands. If I'm killed, that won't happen. Chaos will start to happen. In other words, it's eventually going to happen. It's a very good script. I was surprised--t's really one of the best parts I've had in a long time. That's why I like the show, because it's very tight, suspenseful.'
Landing a job on The Outer Limits
was thrilling for Boxleitner, because he enjoys the show and remembers the original 1960s series fondly. 'I loved the old Outer Limits
when I was a kid,' says Boxleitner, who then mimics Vic Perrin's narration Control Voice, ''We now control your television set!' It used to be a great show. That's part of the kick of doing this right now.' But he confesses he can't recall specific episodes he can call favorites. 'Sometimes I get them mixed up with old Twilight Zones
. In a way, it's the same premise.'
Starring on one of his favorite old shows isn't the only strange thing about Boxleitner's casting. What's really strange are the circumstances under which Boxleitner got the job. It was during an exhausting United Kingdom book tour for his sci-fi novel, Frontier Earth
, that sometime-novelist Boxleitner snagged the gig.
From Jan. 24 to Feb. 3, Boxleitner toured 17 stores, beginning in London and visiting primarily Forbidden Planet stores, then traveling to Wales, Scotland and Ireland for more book signings and meetings with fans. It was a very successful tour, in which approximately 1,100 copies were sold. 'Fans came out and they were standing in the rain,' says Boxleitner. 'And at one point I said, 'Get these people out of the rain!' But they were willing. They were totally into it. We didn't have a British release, so they had to get them from warehouses in the United States. We emptied a couple of them. That was nice.'
The Outer Limits
job offer came the night of Feb. 1, at the Kulture Club in Norwich, while Boxleitner was engaged in a question-and-answer session with a fan club of about 60 admirers. He had just responded to the question 'What are you doing next?' with the answer, 'Well, I'm working on the second book, which is just about finished. But right now, nothing.'
A short time later, the tour coordinator's cell phone rang. He answered it and it was Boxleitner's manager calling from Los Angeles. He had a job for Bruce and needed to speak to him right away. Although Bruce was deep in a dialogue with the fans, the man got up from his chair and handed the phone to the actor.
'I told the fans, 'Excuse me a minute, I have to do some Hollywood business right here!'' chuckles Boxleitner, as he recalls the moment. 'I had this long discussion with my manager. I said, 'You're in front of about 60 people right now!' He said, 'You just got an offer to do an Outer Limits
next week.' I said, 'Well, have you seen the script? Have you read it?' He said, 'Yup! It's really good!' He gave me a 'one-liner' of the story and I said, 'Ahhh! That's cool! Good! Accept it!' because they needed to know right away.'
According to Anke Lantin, a fan photographer who was present at the event and built a photographic essay of the tour, at one point Boxleitner actually asked the audience for their approval of his next paying gig, 'Should I take this Outer Limits
job?' And all of them screamed back, 'YEAH!'
When the call was finished, the fans were excited and surprised. Together, they had all just witnessed a rare moment of Hollywood magic right before their eyes. 'It looked staged!' laughs Boxleitner. 'I'm sure they think that's how it's always done, but it's not!'
Boxleitner's no stranger to landing jobs quickly. When he joined Babylon 5
in 1994, replacing actor Michael O'Hare as the new captain, he arrived only eight days before shooting began on the series' second season. Ultimately, he stayed aboard for a four-year odyssey that's become one of the most celebrated sci-fi TV series ever, and still continues in reruns and on videotape.
Today, Boxleitner looks back fondly on the series, and says, 'It seems so long ago! I loved the experience, but after four years of the series, I was ready to move on and try out other things. When I finish things like Scarecrow and Mrs. King
, I like to get as far away as possible from it. I think we all do. But I didn't write a book, 'I Am Not Sheridan!'' he laughs, referring to Leonard Nimoy's 1975 autobiography, 'I Am Not Spock,' in which Nimoy tried to distance himself from his popular Star Trek
character. 'We went out on top. It pretty much stuck to its original intention without repeating itself.'
But as much as he loves the Babylon 5
universe and his time in it, Boxleitner's content for now to keep looking into the horizon for other interesting projects to tackle. For one, his upcoming sequel to Frontier Earth
is keeping him busy. The second book's scheduled to land at bookstores in November this year. And, as previously announced here at Fandom, Boxleitner's signed to star in Tribune Entertainment's series-in-development remake of Gene Roddenberry's 1973 movie-of-the-week, Genesis II
. If all goes well, Genesis
may go into production in the near future. In the meantime, he's looking to explore another favorite genre--crime drama.
'What I really like is hard-boiled crime fiction,' says Boxleitner. 'I love crime and mystery. That's another genre that never goes away. To me Blade Runner
is the best ever, because it combined both genres. CBS is interested in a series, based on somebody's life, called Inside the R.C.M.P.
It's about an undercover cop catching cops. I would like to do some kind of a cop show. Not just T.J. Hooker
, but something that's new, hard-edged and different from what they're doing now. It's a genre I really have a great deal of fun with.'