<font size="+1">Dylan Neal SCIFI.com chat transcript
<font size="3">Read up on what Dylan had to say at last night's live chat </font>
Over at SCIFI.com, Dylan Neal (David Martel in B5LR
) took part in an online chat last night, Thursday 29 November 2001. Below is a transcript of the moderated portion of the chat, which has been edited for ease of reading.
Dylan talked about topics including what it's like to be part of the B5
universe, why he misses Canada and his hopes that a series will go ahead.
Many thanks to crazybillyo and Lyta who sent in a transcript.
<font color="#6699cc">(ChatMod) Hi everyone, thanks for joining us here. Tonight we're pleased to be serving up another in a series of chats devoted to SCIFI's upcoming film Babylon 5: Legend of the Rangers, premiering January the 19th. Tonight's guest, actor Dylan Neal plays David Martel a compassionate leader who is almost thrown out of the elite fighting group, The Rangers, for making a combat decision which saved his ship and the lives of his crew, but went against the traditional code of honor.
Over the past fifteen years, Dylan Neal has appeared in over forty films and television projects, and has had regular series roles on The Bold and the Beautiful, Pacific Palisades, and Hyperion Bay. For the last five years, he has been playing the role of Doug Witter on Dawson's Creek.
Dylan, what's it like playing a Ranger?</font>
Oh, boy... let's see... I don't know how to comapare it to any other role. First and foremost, there is a lot of pressure on all of the cast playing these roles of Rangers because we are, of course, playing established roles in a franchise. We know there are high expectations from the fans. We certainly don't want to let anyone down so it was a lot of fun but I was very conscious that there would be a lot of people judging whether we lived up to their expectations.
Speaking of the fans, I want to say hello to everyone from b5lr.com. I'm recognizing a lot of names here. This site really has become the unofficial "official" legends of the Rangers web site.
<font color="#6699cc">(Belran) Dylan, you mentioned about playing a character in an established franchise, had you watched any Babylon 5 before doing this part?</font>
I knew of Babylon5 but I never watched the series. I had a lot of catching up to do once I got the role. What's interesting is since becoming part of the franchise, I've realized that my path has crossed those of a lot of people from Babylon 5 just from working in the business for so long.
<font color="#6699cc">(omega) I had read that Andreas Katsulas was an interesting person to work with, did he bring any insights into what was expected from a Ranger?</font>
One thing Andreas did mention was that if I never did anything else in my career, from now on I would be in demand for conventions. We didn't really talk about our characters at all. I was mostly concerned with my own performance while working opposite Andreas. Because he is such a powerful presence and an extremely talented actor.
<font color="#6699cc">(Lyta) We hear that Martel's not only the central character of the film, but that he's anarchetypal great-hero character - how does it feel, as an actor, to play that kind of role? (from Channe)</font>
That's very nice of you, Lyta, to pass that along -- I saw that today on b5lr.com. It's a tricky thing playing the hero. I've only just recently started playing these types of characters and it's difficult to play the hero without becoming a cardboard character. I think that the trick for an actor is to not try and copy Bruce Willis or Mel Gibson or whoever. But to try and instill that character with who YOU are. It's something that I'm looking forward to (hopefully!) getting better at and more comfortable with. I also realize you can't ever please everyone but as long as you feel you're being true to yourself, you have to be happy with that.
<font color="#6699cc">(Dark-Lord) Have you done any martial arts training? As you seem quite good with action from what I have seen, including a nice short clip of you weilding a ranger pike.</font>
I did a movie with Chuck Norris and I worked with a martial arts expert on that film but there was not a lot of time and so, as in Legend of the Rangers, I worked extremely closely with a variety of stunt doubles. It's all smoke and mirrors. I don't know what I'm doing, believe me. I'm always amazed at how good a job stunt people and choreographers do.
<font color="#6699cc">(ChatMod) Dylan, a lot of people are asking how you got your start as an actor, and if you had to audition for B5:LOTR?</font>
I started professionally towards the end of high school. I was fortunate to have a remarkable high school drama program and teacher, and she had enough faith in me to inspire me to carry on with this business. She introduced me to my first agent in Toronto, hwo I auditioned for and he took me on. For the first couple of years, I auditioned for the regular things that actors go out for -- such as commercials, guest spots, smaller roles in movies, basically anything that came my way. Things started to really pick up for me once I moved to the United States. But you never escape from having to audition! I auditioned for this role like everyone else. I was fortunate enough to fool Joe into hiring me.
<font color="#6699cc">(westtim) Are you surprisd by the support SFC is giving to Rangers ? (advertising before "The Lord of the Rings" etc..) </font>
Yes and no. We've been on an interesting trajectory since starting this project. From the very beginning, everyone involved with the project felt that we were the darlings of the network. But any time a project sits at a network for a long period of time, the rumor mills start to go into overdrive. So while all of the advertising that is underway right now had been planned from the very beginning, I was interested in seeing on whether the network followed through on it or not. At one point, we had thought we were going to get a go-ahead for a series very early on. Then, somehow, it all became about the ratings the movie got. So naturally in my case, I started to sense we had lost our heat somehow. I've been attached to a number of pilots that all seemed to be definite go-aheads, only to lose them at the last minute. So I was beginning to wonder if I was on familiar territory. I'm very glad to see the network putting all the money and effort into pushing the movie. I really feel we have a project that could be very successful for them.
<font color="#6699cc">(ChatMod) There's certainly buzz about a series. Thge fans are very vocal for it.
Dylan, several people have asked if, as an actor, working on a science fiction differs from working say on Dawson's Creek? (Aside from the obvious things like learning the techno-speak?)</font>
There's really not that much difference working between genres. Story-telling revolves around universal themes. So regardless of where the action takes place, or whether the dialogue is between humans or aliens, we're dealing with universal issues. I think that is the challenge for actors -- to be true to the story. It's not about special effects. It's not about extravagant sets. You're reaching an audience and hopefully, connecting with them. That's the only mandate any series has: to make a connection.
<font color="#6699cc">(omega) how much influence did JMS have in how you portrayed your character?</font>
Well, obviously, in one way I am trying to fulfill the world that JMS has created. On the other hand, Joe leaves your decision making entirely up to you. Joe has faith in his casting abilities so that when he says, "You're the guy!" he's really saying, "I trust you with this to do as you will." As an actor, you can't ask for anything better.
<font color="#6699cc">(ChatMod) Dylan, several of our audience members hail from Canada and want to know how you like living in LA? (Though with all the Candian actors on SCIFI shows we'd probably qualify as Canadian content on MUCH)</font>
There's a joke in LA that Los Angeles is actually the third largest Canadian city. There are many things about home that I miss. Two of them are: the fall (which is my favorite season -- I'm from the Toronto area and there is nothing more beautiful than seeing autumn colors). The second thing I miss is the Ontario cottage country. I grew up going to my grandmother's island in the Kawartha lakes. There's nothing like that here in California. There isn't anywhere in California where you have hundreds of lakes, all inter-connected in that beautiful way that happens all across Canada. Other than that, Los Angeles has a a lot to offer. But if I weren't in this business, I wouldn't be living here.
<font color="#6699cc">(omega) Did you find the script writers for "Rangers" had a different approach to their work than the other shows you have been involved with, given that it has an established history with B5 and Crusade?</font>
No, I wouldn't say that the script differed from other stand-alone projects I've been involved with. I think I understand what you mean, though, in regard to B5 lore. JMS is unique in his rather large arc-ing story lines. His story-telling is very detailed and yet at the same time, very grand. I really admire and respect the scope of the world that he has created. And it's not just because it's sci fi, because it's certainly very different from, let's say, "Star Trek." I've heard the word "operatic" in conjunction with Babylon 5. It seems very appropriate. It's just very flavorful and -- I'm struggling for words here. Let's just say there's an altruism and a searching in Joe's writing.
<font color="#6699cc">(ChatMod) Dylan, people are asking: As an actor what kind of role do like the best? What's ideal? And what's the hardest kind of role for you personally? (Or maybe they're the same thing...)</font>
The kind of role I like the best is the one I get! I mean, let's be honest -- as an actor, your first and foremost responsibility is in getting hired. The hardest kind of role is the role of Dylan Neal fighting my way through this business. All the rest of it is gravy.
<font color="#6699cc">(drakh) Excluding Rangers, what's the role you're proudest of to date? </font>
There was a pilot I did in 1997 called "Knight Life." It was a sit com for Fox. It was very similar to "The Princess Bride" in tone. In fact... it was almost exactly like the movie and I was playing the role that Cary Elwes played. I had just left the daytime soap "The Bold and the Beautiful" and was honestly worried whether my association with that show was going to hurt my career. I was extremely excited and proud of myself to have gotten my first leading prime time role. And so shortly after leaving the soap! In fact, I still remember the date: it was February 14, Valentine's Day , and they gave me the job right on the spot after 8 auditions. At the final audition which always takes place at the network in a room full of thirty executives just staring at you) that was my first time going to network. I've experienced few things as terrifying.
<font color="#6699cc">(omega) Did the cast feel that they had to live up to the success of B5, or did you feel that Rangers was a separate show for you all to make your own mark on? What did you do to prepare for the role of Martel?</font>
As I said, yes we did feel we had big shoes to fill. But we also realized that Rangers is a slight departure from what JMS has done in the past. It's a younger cast, and this potential series will involve more action than what you've seen in Babylon 5. So we really did have to make it our own show. Hopefully, we'll still have the old fans and hopefully, we can bring in some new viewers as well. In regards to preparing -- it's all about trying to infuse the character with elements of who you are. I generally find I'm a slow starter on new characters. Which gives me all the more reason to want a series to go ahead, so I can really dive into David Martel.
<font color="#6699cc">(Laughalot) I enjoy long walks on the beach, burning my vanilla scented candles and decorating my Christmas tree. What do you like to do when you're not working?</font>
Whoever's writing that sounds VERY familiar. I won't mention names... I've always enjoyed building furniture. Over the years, I've had my own shop and have had pieces for sale in stores in the city. It's not something at this point that I want to pursue as a business, but I could see myself down the road owning an antique shop. I like to paint. I used to do commissioned animal portraits. When I first started as an actor, it helped supplement those very lean years. I also like to play squash, and try to stay on a regular routine at the gym. I mean -- I live in LA, after all... Even coke addicts run five miles a day here in LA!
<font color="#6699cc">(ChatMod) (Moderator's comment) By the way -- several women in the audience have asked for your cell phone number...or at least where they can write for a picture
In regards to pictures, the best thing would be to go through SCI FI.
<font color="#6699cc">(ChatMod) Dylan, our audience is convinced that the ratings of B5:LOTR on January 19th will be super and there will be a series! As such, they wonder if you can see yourself as an action figure once the series spawns a line of toys?</font>
Well apparently I'm already a trading card! Which reminds me -- maybe somebody can answer this for me: Why is SCI FI distributing downloadable "trading" cards when anyone can download them? I don't see where the value in trading comes in. I'm not complaining! I just don't think I get it. If it comes to action figures, I'll just be very annoyed if I don't get a piece of it. It takes greater marketing minds than mine to figure that out...
And knowing Warner Bros, I don't imagine I will. I guess as long as the action figure is very muscular, I won't mind.
<font color="#6699cc">(ChatMod) Dylan, you've been a great guest! We sincerely hope you'll come back if indeed B5:LOTR becomes a series. Last question. What advice do you have for aspiring actors?</font>
First and foremost you have to be very serious about your committment. I honestly believe you have to be willing to dedicate ten years of your life before you even think of giving up. You have to be willing to study just as anyone wanting to be a doctor would study; and you have to be willing to make personal sacrifices. You have to be prepared to struggle and pay your dues. That may seem like a tall order but I think your dreams are worth it. Most people in life don't pursue their dreams. That's simply because it's too hard. If you feel you have it in you to go where most people don't, then I say: just do it. And then you'll never have to ask, "what if?" You'll find your way.
I just want to thank everyone for coming out tonight. It's been a lot of fun.
I think we have a great project here with "Legend of the Rangers." And if anyone has a Nielson box, I have a hundred bucks for you come January 19.
See you all at b5lr.com. Bye everyone.