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Ethnicity: Do You Think JMS Keeps Count?

Well let's see:

There are plenty of white folks, even central/eastern European immigrants. No problem there.

All three lead doctors we've seen so far are of African heritage: Kyle, Franklin, Chambers. These are key roles that require years of self-discipline, study, and intellectual gifts. Ditto with the IPX scientist from Third Space.

We've seen two Asian first officers: Takashima, and Matheson (spelling?), though featuring an WASP (White Anglo Saxon Protestant) name, was played by an Asian. Catherine Sakai, Sinclair's girlfriend, was Asian, as was Senator Hidoshi. We also saw occasional Asian scientists and ship's captains. It did seem that most of the Asian characters did have Japanese names (as opposed to Chinese, Korean, etc.).

However, I haven't seen too many Hispanics on either series or the movies (then again, this is true of most TV shows, isn't it...). Do you suppose JMS simply doesn't consider these things when casting or developing character sketches (if JMS doesn't do the casting, then whoever is reponsible for casting)? Is there a dearth of Hispanic actors willing to take jobs in science fiction?

I don't for a moment consider it to be any kind of bigotry. We see again and again that isn't the case.

"What's up, Drakh?"

Michael Garibaldi
I *think* there was a Hispanic Starfury pilot shown in one episode, and wasn't there also someone in By Any Means Necessary - a dock worker perhaps?

But I must admit I don't pay much attention one way or the other - as long as the actor fits the job, I don't really think about the ethnic background, unless it's a vital part of the story.

"It's bad luck to die on an empty stomach."
- G'Kar, "In the Kingdom of the Blind"
There is a young pilot in All Alone in the Night called Ramirez. He

<table bgcolor=black><tr><td bgcolor=black><font size=1 color=white>Spoiler:</font></td></tr><tr><td><font size=2 color=black>accompanies Sheridan on his mission to investigate strange goings-on. It turns out to be the Streibs, who capture Sheridan, and blows everyone, except Ramirez straight to Hell. And Ramirez's Starfury is badly knocked about, and he suffers fatal radiation poisoning. Nevertheless, he forces himself to make it back to B5, so he can alert people to the fact that Sheridan has been kidnapped. Ramirez dies a short time later in Medlab - much to the distress of Franklin. </font></td></tr></table>

There was also a guy - gal?- called Alverez in War Prayer. He/she was a member of the Home Guard that was attacking aliens on B5.

Excellent point. I saw an article about this (probably in the TV guide or something) and it is a terrible trend. In the U.S.A. the minority group that is growing the fastest (and will SOON be the largest ethnic minority group in the country) is the most under-represented. I am a community college mathematics instructor, in a school that has a large hispanic population. Yet when we advertise to hire teachers, administrators, etc. few or no hispanics apply. I found out recently that we even advertise in journals and such in Mexico.

Part of the problem in the real world, I think, is that people with Master's degrees or PhD's can get a HECK of a lot more money working ANYWHERE else than here. Arizona has one of the lowest pay scales for teachers on all levels in the nation. Why take a job at $30,000 when you have 5 offers at $50,000 or more?

As far as tv is concerned, I'd say its the same old thing. "We're not prejudiced, we just don't THINK about you."

By the way, I am not hispanic, I am am caucasian.

"I do not believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense,
reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use."-- Galileo

[This message has been edited by hypatia (edited July 25, 2001).]
Ethnicity is taken very seriously when casting any show. B5 would be no different.

For example, I think JMS insisted on having a female first officer to balance out the commander and Garibaldi. Even when Ivanova left, she was replaced by another woman. The number 2 position on B5 is female.

The typical formula for TV shows and ethnicity is: white male is the main character, has an ethnic best friend, a tough but sensitive woman is involved somehow, and maybe a plucky little gay character.

Every show has to have at least one black person, so that no one says, "Where are all the black people?"

It is true that there are so few Latin characters on TV, but is it possible that there just aren't that many Latin actors out there? Or is it just that black liberal groups are louder and more powerful?

Anway, the idea of ethnic diversity is crucial in sci-fi. If it is indeed an Earth Alliance, we shouldn't have only white Americans in positions of importance (though both presidents on the show were white male Americans).

One of the things that made Star Trek revolutionary was the ethnically diverse cast (the white male American as captain, of course).

"You do not make history. You can only hope to survive it."

[This message has been edited by GKarsEye (edited July 25, 2001).]
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by GKarsEye:
(though both presidents on the show were white male Americans).

Apart from president Luchenko, of course.

BTW, was Santiago (North-)American?

"It's bad luck to die on an empty stomach."
- G'Kar, "In the Kingdom of the Blind"
Actually, the president of EA after season 4, and during Crusade, was a white female. Also, Captaion Montoya was hispanic.

Two of the shows that come on the Lifetime network, Strong Medicine and The Divison, have hispanic females playing central roles. I believe that A&E's drama 100 Center Street also has a hispanic central character. Someone please correct me, if I am wrong.

However, due to the rise in the Hispanic population in my own area, I have often wondered why that particular ethnic group is not more represented, especially on a show like B5.

On B5 I did notice that there were more Eastern European characters than I had previously noticed on most shows. (Someone had mentioned this above.)

Furthermore, I had always assumed that Dr. Hobbes was of Indian descent.

Of course you do have scenes like the one that depicts the dominate belief system of Earth and you have all these different ethnic groups there representing their beliefs. Some of these groups may have not been presented in the daily run of the show. I cannot recall.

If you consider the portion of the world's population that speak Spanish etc. opposed to the actual numbers shown on B5, it does not seem to pan out.

Of course, I would be unaware of any practical casting concerns that might have made it difficult.

In short, I don't know how well it appears on paper, but I think that they did at least attempt to show more diversity than the average show. It was one thing that I kept noticing throughout the show. For instance, the captian on the Apollo, I believe, was Australian, was he not?

When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in a confederacy against him.
-Jonathan Swift
OK, so I forgot about the Russian president. But she didn't do anything, so she doesn't count

It seems like in all sci-fi shows, humans are radically more diverse than other races.

Klingons are all dark skinned warrior types who believe in the same traditions, afterlife, and honor code. It is hard to believe that a planet full of such contentious war-like people could all agree on the same things to believe in.

Vulcans are all the same, though apparently there are also black Vulcans.

There are only three kinds of Minbari.

The Narns are all pretty much the same. There are some religious differences based on which prophet one chooses to follow. It's cool that an individual gets to choose his own religion, though.

The Centauri divisions are stongly based on social class, but ethnically, physically, and religously they seem to be all the same.

Anyway, my point is, that humans have hundreds of nations, all sorts of various ethnicities, and thousands of languages.

I know, it's impossible for a TV show to invent hundreds of religions and ethnicities for dozens of worlds, so I'm no complaining, it just strikes me as odd.

"You do not make history. You can only hope to survive it."
As an Asian-American I will say this much for JMS. In Ceremonies of Light and Dark Ivanova began naming the fallen:


I know I probably made some spelling errors, but from this list JMS is okay by me.

"Personal journal, Captain Matthew Gideon, continue. It's now three days since our visitors arrived on behalf of Earthgov's Political Affairs Office. There is apparently some concern with how our work here is being perceived back home. They've been assigned to "help" us. Before their tour is finished, I may have to kill them. Assuming, Lt. Matheson doesn't beat me to it."
I'd also agree that sci-fi seems to be more aware of ethnic diversity than other show formats. But I think it is interesting that some of these groups are virtually never represented in speaking parts. Hispanic, Indian, Native American. (One of the biggest disappointments to me was that the one Star Trek that had a female Captain and a Native American first officer was not a very good show. Not because of this fact, at all.)

Casting may be done to please a very narrow group. The statistical experts probably know someone like me (35, female, white) won't stop watching a show because there aren't minority groups represented. But maybe they are afraid of "turning off" that precious 12 year old to 19 year old, male, white group.

I just can't believe that, with the Hispanic population in the USA growing so rapidly, SOMEONE won't turn this around sometime soon. (Yes, I know, and if wishes were fishes...)

"I do not believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense,
reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use."-- Galileo
The President in In the Beginning, the one who proposes the Babylon Project, is a woman. And the second President of the Interstellar Alliance is a woman. So out of six Presidents who figure in the plot of the show, three are male and three are female.

I think JMS sought a rough and ready "balance" in the cast, but apart from that tended to go with whoever was best in a given role. The fact that James Earl Jones was on the "short list" to replace Michael O'Hare is an indication of this. I suspect if the best actor who had read for the part of Dr. Franklin (who was a very different character than Dr. Kyle) had been white, JMS would simply have made an effort to cast an African-American in some other role (perhaps the security chief.) He explicitly denied going for any perdetermined proportion of male and female, only stating at one point that there was a specific story reason that the station commander was male.

And certainly an effort was made to keep the background people and recurring minor characters diverse. As for the aliens - if you're going to have major ethnic differences among alien races you need to have several different make-up and prosthetic designs to represent them, which adds a huge cost. So there are practical reasons for limiting the amount of variation.

As David Gerrold pointed out in one of his books on Star Trek for most TV roles the ethnic background of a character is utterly irrelevant. The cab driver or the minister who provides a clue to the detectives on a cop show can be any color and have any accent. Unless it is a story point, who cares? The problem is that casting directors get lazy, and they tend to cast folks they know, which in Los Angeles largely means WASPs. At the script stage you may write a character named Nigel Witherspoon, but if the best actor who reads for the role is Ramon Juarez, there's no reason you can't change the name (if you think that's appropriate) and cast the guy who nails the character.

In a future space show, where it is reasonable to postulate the contact with aliens would reduce ethnic divisions among Humans, it would be reasonable not to change the name even after casting an obviously "Hispanic-looking" actor, on the assumption that intermarriage is more common and that a Nigel Witherspoon might have all sorts of ethnic groups in his family tree. (I'm not entirely sure what a "Hispanic-looking" actor really means, anyway. I have black hair - well, mostly
- and brown eyes. In almost twenty years of college and community theater I've played Italians, Jews, Hispanics and WASPs, and I think I succeeded in "looking" the part each time.)

JMS changed the ethnicity of at least one Rangers character because he ended up casting someone from a different ethnic group than the one written.



Joseph DeMartino
Sigh Corps
Pat Tallman Division

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, arial">quote:</font><HR>

Q. Will there be diversity among aliens, just as there are among humans?

JMS: Yes, I *strongly* believe that there has to be diversity among our alien races ...accents, political beliefs, religion, name it. I think that is VERY important. Yes, from time to time, you want the monolithic, perfectly homogeneous aliens, but if so, you want them to stick out a bit in contrast to the rest.

G'Kar has the dominant accent of his people.

So does Kosh.

8 Sep 1993
We're casting people of every ethnicity, and every height. Including shorter actors. A guest starring character in "Believers" by David Gerrold is a Hispanic woman doctor, who's at *most* 5'2". We didn't go looking for height, or shortness, only who was the best actor.

Diversity of B5 populace

12 Jan 1995

Babylon 5 is not like your local community, with as wide-ranging a bunch of residents, including children. It's more like an airport, and you don't generally see a lot of kids living at airports (unless you live in a community much different from mine).
There are two kinds of people in general at B5...those who live and work at the station (security guards, maintenance, dockworkers, other support staf) and people passing through en route to other places, on stop-over.
It's a place where you come to do business deals, staying over for a day or two, and then leaving. You wouldn't tend to bring your kids to something like that, and families passing through go right from one ship to another, usually in a hurry to make their flight.

And we've had plenty of older characters, so your sweepin generalization is inaccurate, as are most sweeping generalizations. From June Lockhart to Michael Ansara to Walter Koenig to Jane Carr to many others, we've gone beyond the 35-49 age range you cite.
We've also had many ethnic groups, and featured them; in fact, virtually ALL of the relationships (with I think one exception) have so far been from different ethnic backgrounds (Sinclair and Sakai, Talia Winters and Jason Ironheart, Dr. Franklin and Lockhart's daughter).
We've used asian actors (doctors in medlab, the scientist in "Voice," Taro Isogi in "Spider," Sakai), hispanic actors (in "By Any Means," Dr. Maya Hernandez in "Believers," Wanda DeJesus coming up in "Hunter, Prey"), and a lot of African American actors.
We also populate all background shots with a wide mix of ethnic backgrounds.

In short, we're already *doing* it. And we will continue to do more of it. (Why doesn't Ivanova have a Russian accent? Because she was raised overseas, and went to schools outside Russia, something we'll learn in a few episodes.)


Yes, I like cats too.
Shall we exchange Recipes?
Funny, I can think of several Black actors -
James Earl Jones, Will Smith, Denzil Washington, Morgan Freeman, Sydney Poitier. Kinda stuck with the Black actresses - is Whoopi Goldberg an actress? A couple of Jewish Ones - Michael and Kirk Douglas, Woody Allen - one or two Jewish actresses - Rhea Perlman, for instance.
But I can only think of two Latino or Hispanic actors. And unfortunately, I can't remember his name - he was on that old series LA Law, and he played a Latino lawyer.
The other one - I'm not sure whether you could acually call him an actor - Erik Estrada!
I don't doubt that there are others out there - I just haven't heard of them.

As far as Black actresses go, two of the hottest names in Hollywood right now are Angela Basset and Halle Barry (spelling?). Isn't Della Reese still starring in that "Touched by an Angel" TV show?

For Hispanic actors,
Hector Elizondo
-- Pretty Woman, Chicago Hope

Gregory Sierra
-- Barney Miller, Miami Vice

Edward James Almos
-- Miami Vice, Blade Runner, Stand and Deliver

Cheech Marin
-- Cheech and Chong, The Golden Girls (or a spinoff), Nash Bridges

Of course, I'm sure there are others.

"What's up, Drakh?"

Michael Garibaldi

[This message has been edited by Mondo Londo (edited July 26, 2001).]
Oh yeah, I forgot Martin Sheen, his son Charlie Sheen, and his other son that uses his real name, Emilio Estevez (spelling?).

"What's up, Drakh?"

Michael Garibaldi
Is Andy Garcia Hispanic?

What about Salma Hayek or Jennifer Lopez?

"It's bad luck to die on an empty stomach."
- G'Kar, "In the Kingdom of the Blind"
Benicio del Torro: The Usual Suspects, Traffic, etc.
Chris Seda: Selena, Homicide (TV)
Patricia Velasquez: The Mummy, The Mummy Returns

I hope that I used the correct spelling for their names.

When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in a confederacy against him.
-Jonathan Swift
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Kribu:
Is Andy Garcia Hispanic?

What about Salma Hayek or Jennifer Lopez?

If I recall correctly, Andy is Cuban American, Salma is Mexican, and Jennifer is Puerto Rican.


I have no surviving
enemies. At all.

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