This is part of a series analyzing newly discovered Wing Commander IV continuity photographs. You can find the previous posts collected here.
Today's polaroid led us to several interesting stories. Pictured here as "Confed Cap #3" is actor Charles "Chip" Esten. Since appearing as a featured extra in Wing Commander IV, Esten has gone on to a considerable amount of success including appearing as a series regular on ABC drama Nashville, playing Josh Porter on The Office and on multiple iterations of Whose Line Is It Anyway?. Mr. Esten is very active today and even retweeted our request to help identify his polaroid!
The polaroid gives you a good look at a Terran Confederation Navy jacket complete with a name and rank that aren't visible on screen (JARVIS and Lieutenant Commander, respectively). Wing Commander Prophecy would later establish a different canonical rank for Lieutenant Commander (three squares). As a featured extra, Esten is credited in the game as "Generic Cap #1". While there are multiple claims online that these credits belong to the voice actors responsible for capital ship comms, that is incorrect. The 'Generic Cap' characters are the background Navy and Space Force officers who appear throughout the TCS Lexington scenes, mostly in the briefing room, rec room and during the game's series of elaborate transition videos. While it's difficult to be absolutely sure, we believe Esten is most visible as a communications officer who appears in several of the briefing scenes and in the initial ready room meeting with Captain Eisen. The numbering of the polaroid itself indicates that it was taken during a second unit shoot of transition scenes (where multiple Navy officers are visible though none clearly enough to confirm their identity).
We don't have any polaroids for the other three Generic Cap credits so we thought we'd go ahead and look them up for this story. Unfortunately, some of what we learned ended up being very tragic, but in a way that we thought it would be important to report.
Generic Cap #2 is credited to "Michael Haplin" which turned out to be a complete dead end; Haplin has no other credits and no picture available online... nor is there any other mention of him in public archives. As a credited extra, though, he would have been a Hollywood professional rather than someone stepping in for a background cameo. Further searching suggested that Haplin is actually a typo and that it should be Michael Halpin. Sure enough, Michael Halpin is a succesful actor on both stage and screen who has since gone into production. You can find his biography here at The Unusual Suspects, a theater group he manages.
Generic Cap #3 is Carolyn "Cookie" Carosella who is visible in the background of rec room scenes and during the Lexington transitions; she's the taller blonde pilot with her hair in a bun. Her character's nametag is not visible but she wears a Space Force pilot's uniform with a 2nd Lt.'s rank badge. Ms. Carosella went on to success not only as an actress but also a casting agent and producer. Unfortunately, her story ends very sadly: she battled cancer for several years and ultimately passed away in 2021. In her final years, she told her story through a now defunct website hoping to inspire others who were also battling the disease. You can find a video interview of her discussing her fight here. It's terribly sad to lose anyone to such a horrible disease, but there's also an added melancholy here knowing that someone that helped make our universe was publicly suffering and we didn't even know who she was. At least Wing Commander IV will keep a little part of her alive off in the Epsilon Sector... and we'll remember her here.
Generic Cap #4 is Jeffrey Arbaugh. He's visible in the background of briefing room scenes (see below) and transition videos. Like many of the other background performers we've researched, he's still working in film and on stage today, with a host of credits. You can find a recent newspaper profile about him here.