Saturday, October 16th saw a reunion of three Star Trek: The Next Generation stars, while actors from Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Enterprise took the stage on Sunday, October 17th at Hollywood Xpo in Universal City, California.
Jonathan Frakes (Commander Riker) was reunited with Michael Dorn (Worf) and Suzie Plakson (K’Ehleyr) on stage on Saturday, but he immediately jumped into the audience to ask his former co-stars some joking questions, such as, “What is Patrick Stewart (Captain Picard) really like?” to which Dorn responded, “Patrick Stewart is really nice, but he’s not that talented. It’s just the accent.”
The three actors reminisced about the camaraderie between the TNG cast, to the point that their joking occasionally scared directors off. “[The cast was] funny enough that they didn’t have to do practical jokes,” Plakson said.
“We ran a couple directors out of the biz,” Dorn admitted, while Frakes confessed, “We were like bad children.”
Dorn defended the cast’s professional attitude once the cameras started rolling. “When they said action, we were on,” he said. But after the director yelled cut, it was a different story. “Jonathan would run around the set, singing until he [literally] fell through one of the walls!” Dorn recalled.
Frakes mentioned he’s going to be directing an episode of Chuck, and discussed his gig directing the TNT show Leverage. “Whenever possible I offer roles to them jobs,” he says of his former co-stars on TNG. “And they turn them down. I offered Brent Spiner (Data) a job on Leverage. Brent said, ‘I don’t know Johnny.’ I said, ‘You don’t have to read.’ Brent said, ‘Eh… call me when someone turns it down.” After that happened, Frakes called Spiner back and said, “‘Now you have to do it.’ And he showed up.”
Dorn penned a romantic comedy with his producing partner and revealed that former co-star Marina Sirtis (Counselor Troi) is set to star in it. He shared that his dream project would be making a pilot of a TV show he wrote entitled High Flight about a flight school.
On Sunday, Robert Duncan McNeill (Tom Paris) took the stage to discuss his role on Voyager as well as his long-running directing gig on the NBC show Chuck. “Star Trek was my last acting job,” McNeill said of Voyager, noting he’s been directing since playing Tom Paris. “They keep talking to me on Chuck, saying [I] should do a guest role as a bad guy or something, but I don’t know.”
Though he’s no longer acting, he’s still close with many of his Voyager co-stars. “On most shows, you do just move on [after they end],” McNeill said. “But Star Trek is different because it’s got [the fans], a built in family. The guys [from Voyager] have remained close. It started the first season of Voyager—we went out for a steak dinner. It was so fun we decided to make it a regular thing. We haven’t really moved on: we still hang out, the guys still get together [regularly].”
McNeill told the audience that former co-star Garrett Wang (Harry Kim) had come to Chuck to shadow him as a director. “[He’s] been spending some time with me on the Chuck set,” McNeill said. “Tim Russ (Tuvok) was doing a day on The Whole Truth, which films right next door to us, so we had a mini-reunion.”
McNeill acknowledges that the closeness between the cast of Voyager is a special thing. “I [directed and produced] a show called What About Brian a few years ago, and I saw one of the actors a few weeks ago, and he said he doesn’t see anyone [from that show].”
Because Chuck, which was recently renewed for a full season, has struggled in the ratings during the course of its run, McNeill worried about the show’s survival in its early years. “I kept thinking the show would get cancelled after the first season and the writers’ strike,” he admitted. “[Now] I actually feel like we’re a hit for NBC. As Heroes was fading, as The Event is fading, we’re actually up eight to ten percent. The cast is awesome and the concept is incredible.”
McNeill enjoys being on Chuck, and finds the show’s tone is the right one for him. “I like being on a comedy,” he said. “It’s more fun. I couldn’t do a Law & Order show now. I wouldn’t want to spend my day talking about horrible crimes; I’d rather talk about fart jokes.”
When asked about his style of directing versus that of former co-star Roxann Dawson (B’Elanna Torres), McNeill shared they have very different sensibilities as directors. “She’s very serious, and I’m an idiot,” he joked, adding, “She’s incredibly well prepared. I go off instinct.” When asked further about his directing style, McNeill revealed, “I’m an actor’s director because I’m always looking for that emotional experience.”
McNeill cited “Someone to Look Over Me” and “Parturition” as favorite episodes of Voyager, along with “Caretaker,” the show’s very first episode. “I like the pilot; the first episode was so epic,” he said. “I think we shot for 28 days, which is like a feature.”
“The first season or two, there was a lot of confusion about who these characters were,” he went on. “The writers were throwing everything and the kitchen sink at us. We were confused, [wondering], ‘Do we like each other? Do we get along?’ The studio and the writers were at a loss for what the show was. Because of that, the actors had a hand in the direction [their characters took].”
McNeill had qualms with his character early on in the show’s run. “My character early on was not a nice guy,” he admitted. “He was a womanizer, he was rude to people. Everybody hated me! I hated me—I was a jerk. I told the writers, if you keep writing this guy this way, you might as well write him off because no one is going to like him.”
Despite Tom Paris’s initial introduction, McNeill doesn’t agree with comparisons that suggest Paris and the character McNeill played on TNG, Nick Locarno, are essentially the same character. “People say Tom Paris and Nick Locarno are the same, but I don’t think so at all,” McNeill said. “Nick Locarno pretended to be a good guy in the outside but was really a rotten guy on the inside, whereas Tom Paris pretended to be a rotten guy on the outside but was really a good guy on the inside.”
In addition to his job directing on Chuck, McNeill has a project at Warner Brothers entitled 30 Minutes. “[It’s] about a pizza delivery place and [the] misfits [who work there],” he revealed, describing it as “My Name is Earl/Scrubs mixed with 24 and Chuck.” The director also has a project at ABC Studios about “an old Hollywood hotel where crazy things happen.”
Enterprise actor John Billingsley (Dr. Phlox) followed McNeill onto the stage for an irreverent session during which he joked with fans about everything from his co-stars to politics. “I’m left alone on stage because they’re all getting stoned!” he said of his former co-stars Connor Trinneer (Trip Tucker) and Dominick Keating (Malcolm Reed), who weren’t able to attend the convention.
Billingsley updated fans on his current projects: “I’m doing an episode of The Mentalist [right now]. Connor Trinneer is doing the same episode. I’m not the killer, and I’m not the victim. I’m [also] doing a couple of indie films.”
The actor also detailed two practical jokes he played on Enterprise lead Scott Bakula (Captain Archer). “For Scott Bakula’s birthday party—his 70th, I think—I dressed up as his first wife. I had large bosoms and a floozy blonde wig and came in with a vodka bottle, saying, ‘Scott, Scott, how could you leave me?’ I didn’t check if his children were there and they were, and they started crying. They thought I was going to their dad!”
Billingsley also pranked Bakula during the filming of “Dear Doctor” in the show’s first season. “There was a running voice over, and there was a scene in which I’m on the bridge and we stopped to pick up a disabled space ship. I recorded [a voice over] for the first rehearsal that said, ‘Look at the ass on that captain! I’d like to pull his pants down and give him a jolly rogering!’ Scott took it well.”
He also added that he wasn’t happy with the show’s oft criticized finale, “These Are The Voyages…,” joking that he would have liked to see a different ending for his character. “It would have been nice if I’d been an intergalactic god,” Billingsley said of how he would have liked the show to end for Dr. Phlox.