Billingsley Would Like More Development For PhloxBy Caillan
May 9, 2002 - 12:04 PM
See Also: 'Dear Doctor' Episode Guide
If John Billingsley (Doctor Phlox) has any regrets about Enterprise's first season, it's that there wasn't time to really find out what makes the Denobulan medic tick.
"I would love it if we could have a deeper understanding of how Phlox is affected by his separation from his species and what the storyline is there," Billingsley said in the June issue of Star Trek: The Magazine (via JohnBillingsley.net).
"That might give people a greater sense of his three-dimensionality and allow for some deepening of the relationships. Right now, I think I'm sort of a quasi-mentor figure to certain characters, but that has been touched on without really being explored, and only in a couple of instances - Hoshi and T'Pol, I think. And I would love to see some more of the issues between the captain and myself that were suggested in 'Dear Doctor': not tensions, but a hint that our individual sense of mission might differ in certain instances. Maybe the relationship there could be a little more complicated."
There needs to be an attempt to look at Phlox as more than an alien curiosity, the actor said. "I sometimes feel as if there is a certain kind of 'ain't he cute' feeling that the other characters are apt to have for me, and to a certain extent the only way to break through that is to have a greater sense of what this guy's real struggle is, so that has to be in relation to my own backstory. I think it's a little tougher to jump off and talk about the alien character's backstory because it seems to necessitate a more elaborate architecture, but ultimately until they do that I'm such a cipher that it's hard to figure out how to allow me to have relationships with people."
Nevertheless, Billingsley was happy to be given the chance to stretch his acting muscles in the episode 'Dear Doctor.' "It was great to have that episode," he said. "It's the only one that's really featured me at all, and for the most part, although I'm having a great time and the people are terrific, the other episodes have not really dealt much with my character. But in this show the doctor was given more depth and I was very happy that they were moving in that direction. There's just no way they can sustain an interest in this character if he's only presented as a guy who capers about having a good time. I felt that getting to put on the clothes, and speak, and talk, and walk, and think like him for seven concentrated days was very helpful."
Although he hasn't had another strong episode like 'Dear Doctor,' the actor emphasised that he understands Phlox isn't the focus of the series. "Since then, I've really not had a chance to do very much, and it's not as if I don't feel a connection to him, but for the most part the scenes I've had to do so far have been very short and not terribly meaty, so it's hard to say that there's anything happening right now that's giving me the opportunity to explore him further. But I want to temper that by saying I understand that that is the nature of the beast, and the show is definitely driven by the three lead characters."
Like Robert Picardo (the EMH), his medical predecessor on Voyager, Billingsley has several ideas for episodes featuring his character. "It may be that in the first season it's best to just sit back and see what develops, but I asked Brannon [Braga] recently if I could come in and maybe pitch some ideas. I'm of two minds, though. I'm an actor - that's what I'm hired to do; I'm not hired to write or have brainstorms - and I've worked on other shows where I hear somebody else saying 'I'm going to go in and I'm going to pitch this and I'm going to pitch that', and I kind of roll my eyes and think, 'Oh, I'm sure they hired you for that!' I think a little of it goes a long way, and I'm not inclined to overstep those bounds.
"I don't know that what I'm presenting is going to be particularly attractive to them, or take them in a direction that they want to go, but I do think that I might be able to bring a perspective and point of view to the table, so I'm certainly going to offer that up."
Whatever the result of his pitches, Billingsley is grateful just to have a steady job. "If they say, 'No, thanks; we're doing just fine,' that's absolutely OK by me," he said. "As an actor I'd love to have more to do, but if it doesn't work out that way, I'm still living the dream. I'm getting the chance to make money doing something I dig, and I've got a wonderful private life. Whatever I'm given to play, I will play it with great high cheer, because I have too many years behind me of doing 99-seat theater, where everybody shares a dressing room with a broken toilet, to be disgruntled about anything!"
To read the full interview with John Billingsley, in which he also talked about getting out of sickbay and the sensual side of Phlox, pick up the June issue of Star Trek: The Magazine, out now. Alternatively, a full transcript is available at his official web site.