Sci Fi TV Trifles: Why Did Michael O’Hare leave Babylon 5?

By | April 23, 2016


Tidbits, trivia, anecdotes, little-known nuggets and more from the worlds of sci fi and fantasy television.

In 1993, Babylon 5 debuted on television and began its legendary five year run. And during its first year (along with the pilot movie) the late Michael O’Hare had the lead role as station commander Jeffrey Sinclair, though he departed abruptly at the end of the season. So why exactly did O’Hare leave the show just as it was starting to hit its stride?

Babylon-5-Commander-SinclairO’Hare took the lead in the ensemble drama that unfolded on Babylon 5 during its first season and seemed to have a very good grasp of the show’s central character. But as Season 2 begins, we get the startling news that Commander Sinclair has been reassigned and that Captain Sheridan (played by Bruce Boxleitner) will take his place. Series creator and primary writer J. Michael Straczynski had initially addressed the change in personnel well before Season 2 began to air. He regularly communicated with fans through Usenet groups and referred to O’Hare’s departure as “a mutual, amicable, and friendly separation” and that is was not “a Tasha Yar situation” (referring to Denise Crosby’s exit from Star Trek: TNG). According to JMS, O’Hare’s decision involved his personal consideration of “other opportunities, any possible concern about typecasting, the limitations of a continuing role”. And the series creator had written in a “trap door” for each of the show’s central characters in case the actors decided to leave, thus he had a means in place of dealing with the changeover of station commander. So that would lead us to believe that it was all just a friendly parting of ways with no hard feelings. But there was much more to the story that came out over the years that followed.

Apparently O’Hare was not the easiest actor to work with and allegedly he had some drug issues. According to statements made by Jerry Doyle (who played Mr. Garibaldi) on his radio show, O’Hare was a “whack-job” and “a complete lunatic”. He also claimed that O’Hare sexually assaulted one of the female interns working on the show, punched an actress, and Doyle told the producers that he would not return to the show if O’Hare came back. Another claim about O’Hare was that the execs of the PTEN network (where B5 aired) did not feel he was a strong enough actor and they put pressure on JMS to write him out of the series. Also, according to IMdB, JMS decided that he had too many plot threads weaving through the Sinclair character and decided to change things around a bit, letting Sheridan pick up some of the story lines planned for his predecessor though not all.  After O’Hare passed away in 2012, JMS revealed that the actor had suffered from mental illness during the shooting of the first season that caused him to have paranoid delusions, and this was the reason that he was difficult to work with.  Straczynski had offered to delay the start of the second season to give O’Hare time to seek treatment, but the actor did not want to put the jobs of so many others at risk and chose to depart instead.  JMS had made a promise to O’Hare not to reveal the truth of his illness while he was alive, thus the reason it has only recent come to light.

O’Hare did reprise his role as Sinclair briefly in Season 2 and then in the pivotal two-part Season 3 episode “War Without End”. He rarely appeared on television after B5, preferring stage acting to film or TV.  He died of a heart attack on September 28, 2012, putting an end to his acting career.  But we still fondly remember his portrayal of Commander Jeffrey Sinclair throughout the entire first season of Babylon 5.

Sci-Fi-TriflesSci Fi Trifles:  Useless but essential pop culture tidbits and trivia from the worlds of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror

Did you know that Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski wrote a proposal for a Star Trek reboot years before the J.J. Abrams movies came out? Did you know that Han Solo was originally supposed to be a green-skinned alien and some of the early actors considered for the role included Billy Dee Williams, Al Pacino, and Chevy Chase? How about that FOX originally wanted someone more like Pamela Anderson to play the roll of Scully on The X-Files? Or that in 1974, science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke predicted the Internet? Ever hear of Varney the Vampire?

Find out the truths about these and more in Sci Fi Trifles.  Trivia, anecdotes, little known nuggets and more that present an addicting glimpse into the story behind the story of sci fi. Once you’ve started reading them you will wonder how you have managed to live so long without knowing them!

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