Bill Mumy reveals near exit from Babylon 5 and the unseen struggles behind the scenes

Here's why the actor almost quit his second most famous role!

Sci-fi fans have plenty to remember Bill Mumy from, as his career has spanned seven decades of genre greatness. One of his earliest roles was in the Twilight Zone episode "It's a Good Life", in which Mumy played Anthony, a boy who uses his godlike psychic powers to terrorize the grownups. Then he did another episode called "Long Distance Call," before starring in an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents called "The Door Without a Key" before doing a third Twilight Zone, this final one titled "In Praise of Pip".

Mumy was also, allegedly, the first choice to play Eddie Munster before his parents objected to the heavy makeup requirements for the role. Young Bill didn't know it at the time, but this was serious foreshadowing for a later portion of his career. 

His two biggest roles are in Lost in Space and Babylon 5. The earlier show, which premiered in 1965, featured Mumy as Will Robinson, and was a mild ratings success, frequently beating its sci-fi neighbor, Star Trek before being canceled in 1968.

Between 1994 and 1998, Bill Mumy played Lennier, the diplomatic aide to Minbari Ambassador Delenn on Babylon 5. A costly mistake nearly ruined Mumy's involvement in the show, as the actor detailed in a June 2000 edition of Cinefantastique.

Despite agreeing to star in Babylon 5, Mumy did not watch the show's pilot before signing on. So how was he supposed to know what Lennier and the Minbai looked like?

"At the beginning, the makeup process was almost unbearable," the actor said. "I had never done anything like it in my life, except for an episode of Lost in Space, where they turned Will into Dr. Smith. But that was just for two days, whereas in Babylon 5, I had to do it every time I'm in front of the camera."

The torturous process took the longest while the series was still in its early days.

"It took three hours and 20 minutes the first season, and there were times when I wondered if I could stay with the show. It was difficult because, I loved playing Lennier and I liked being a part of the show, but the makeup was really unbelievable. if I was in the first shot of the day, I had to be up at four o'clock in the morning. We had two little kids and I wasn't sleeping at all! It was very, very hard."

Luckily, as Babylon 5 continued, the artistic team was able to refine the operation, becoming more efficient with each season.

"Greg Funk from Optic Nerve got my makeup down to about 90 minutes," Mumy explained. "He made it as comfortable as it possibly could be. So I'm really glad I stuck it out at the beginning."

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5 Comments

WGH 10 days ago
Why wouldn't they show a picture of Billy in the Babylon 5 makeup? I never watched the show.
WGH WGH 10 days ago
Here's a photo from the internet. I must have watched several episodes back in the day because I do remember this look.
cperrynaples 26 days ago
As far as I'm concerned, Anthony was his BEST performance! And I'm sure Anthony would agree...LOL! Fun Fact: He got to return to that character 40 years later with his daughter playing Anthony's daughter!
My favorite pre-LIS role will always be “In Praise Of Pip”. Loved both Billy and Jack’s performances in that episode. Maybe because I grew up with daily Odd Couple re-runs that I was fond of Jack and had a crush on Billy. Such a happy and sad heartwarming episode.
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