The Future of B5

 Posted on 3/9/1996 by J. Michael Straczynski <> to CIS

(blocked) asks:
> How DO you create a character like Delenn?
> How DID you create Delenn?

As with any character I create, I tend to peel off a small
piece of myself to make the core of it. There are certain aspects of
me scattered in all the B5 characters, Delenn in particular. Then you
start adding elements that seem to shore up those traits. For Delenn I
pulled in some aspects of Zen mysticism, Japanese culture, certain
Moslem influences in government and culture (minbar is the name for the
pulpit in a mosque) comes the layering of history, where she
came from, who her parents were, what happened to them (which, btw,
you'll hear this season)...where she was when the war started, what she
felt about it, what she did at the time, what happened later....

Our personalities are formed in large measure by our history,
what we have seen and done and learned. Once you have all those
details, you're a long way toward building the character. A character
is like a well-reared child, it has aspects of its parents, but is more
than just a reflection, and forms its own life after a while.

The final element comes in when you have an actor in the role,
and you look at the actor and the character and try to merge them, so
the truth of the person behind the name becomes the truth of the
character. For Mira, that meant hitting those aspects of Minbari
culture which I knew would resonate with her background from the former
Yugoslavia. I know that if I put her in the middle of a scene in which
she has to deal with her government unraveling, what the actor felt
when the real thing began to happen will seep out, whether it's wanted
or not. Is it manipulative of the actor? Absolutely. Several of the
actors have come to me and noted that the character is hitting
something that's very close to them, and how did I know to hit them
with this? Half of being a writer is observation.

It's the same reason I assigned David Gerrold to write
"Believers," even though he couldn't at first figure out why he, mainly
noted for his light comic work, would be given this heavy dramatic
story...until he was well into it, and -- having just adopted a young
boy -- had to go through the emotional turmoil I wanted those parents
to go through.

You have to be part oracle, part counselor, part parent, part
boss and partly mad to make this show work....