With all the chat going on about the ‘flipping the bird’ shot from the TV Guide shoot, I thought I’d post the piece from my book “Pleasure Thresholds” about that photograph.

The TV Guide Cover Shoot
Spring 1997

When it filtered through the cast that TV Guide was going to feature Babylon 5, there was much speculation on who would be a part of the cover and who would be involved in the article. I knew I would not be on the cover, but I was pleasantly surprised that the article would involve a photo shoot with all of us. Then, we found out that the photo shoot would be on our day off, and without pay. There was grumbling, especially amongst those who had to wear a ton of makeup! In general, though, the cast was pleased sci-fi in general, and our show in particular, would be taken seriously enough to be the subject of an issue.
If I had to put my finger on one feeling that was pervasive on that early Saturday morning, it would be exhaustion. We were all tired at the end of a long week. Missing our families, play time and sleep, we dragged ourselves into the sound stage to get ready and meet our photographer, who I can describe as freakishly chipper; it grated on the nerves this particular morning.
We spent about two hours shooting various combinations and lineups. No one had much energy, and it faded fast. Like the Richard Simmons of photography, this guy kept cheering us on. But now we really had no more ideas. Standing against the bare wall of the sound stage, frustrated, exhausted and cranky, we all—in one moment—flipped him the bird…and he took the picture before realizing what was going on. We all perked up a bit after that, but the photographer decided he’d better quit when he was ahead, and we were finally able to go home.
That should have been that.

About a week later, Joanne, Joe’s assistant, came to get me on the set and told me I was summoned to his office. She was shaking her head and, as we walked back, she said, “What did you do this time?”
Joe sat back as I came in and said, “I have a picture I’d like you to sign.” Joe can be tough to read on the best of days and he was a blank slate today. Was that a hint of anger or amusement? Puzzled, wondering why he had to call me to his office in the middle of a shoot day to sign a photo, I said of course I’d sign. He pulled out an 11″x14″ glossy pic of the cast, against the sound stage wall, all shooting the finger to the camera. He was completely stone faced. Not at all sure how to react, I kept my face as calm as I could, took the Sharpie he offered, and signed the photo, the first cast member to do so. “Is that all?” I asked, and scooted out of there as he nodded. I had no idea what was going to happen; was I finally about to be sucked out an airlock? But as the other cast members signed the pic throughout the day, it was apparent he was pulling a Mickey on us and thoroughly enjoyed our discomfort. He has it hanging in his house somewhere I hear tell.

10 Responses to The TV Guide shoot

  1. Rob Maurice says:

    I have seen this picture, without the signatures, of course. It was at DragonCon quite a few years ago, in the possession of those two scoundrels, Londo and G’Kar. There was some discussion of how many Dukats it was going to cost, so I walked away, knowing that my paltry American Dollars would not work on that wily pair.

  2. Phil Browne says:

    Oh that’s just a classic! Thanks for the snippet!


  3. Michael says:

    Omg! The Richard Simmons of photography – ! It sounds like that moment where rapport breaks down and one is trying unsuccessfully to suck everyone into a particularly distant but enthusiasic realm. And then … the suspense of going to the office – ! *groan*

  4. johnkennedy says:

    Just did a similar group pose yesterday with the (amateur) New Jersey Renaissance Festival & Kingdom. Here we all are, having variously acted, sung, danced, and done intense combat scenes for the last six and a half hours in 85˚ weather, two days in a row, and the guy from the local paper wants us to smile. God knows how, but we did.

  5. Kris says:

    That picture is all over Tumblr and people love it!
    I have to admit that it’s one of my favorite cast pics of any show!
    Just the sheer awesomeness!

  6. Gary D Canfield says:

    I love that picture.

  7. john norman says:

    You have done an outstanding job. I have enjoyed everything that I have seen. I hope your as good a person as you are an actress.


  8. Amitai says:

    I can’t speak for other photogs, but I love it when my models/subjects act like this. They make for the most enduring and fun shoots. I usually try to get the shoots started with shots like this because everyone is more relaxed and natural for the rest of the time. They are also a lot more willing to tell me when it is time to stop if they see that I am putting their comfort above my own and that I understand that they are the art while I am just recording it.

  9. Amitai says:

    Forgot to mention that if you ever make it to a Con in Columbus, OH or mysticon in VA I am up for any (except adult themed, I simply won’t do that under any circumstances) photo shoot you would want to take on. B5 was/is so special to me and my wife that we included quotes from the show in our wedding readings. It was also her first exposure to Sci-Fi where women were real multi-faceted characters played by talented actors rather then just eye-candy in spandex. Sleeping in the Light was the first time I cried at a TV show (really difficult for someone with ASD). We both love and appreciate how you and the rest of the cast have improved our lives.

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