John 'Phlox' Billingsley Speaks OutBy Caillan
September 18, 2001 - 11:08 AM
With Dr. Phlox something of an enigma to the crew of the NX-01, Enterprise's John Billingsley has taken to filling in his character's blank spaces.
"They haven't really given me too much backstory on where my character comes from, or his species or even his culture," Billingsley told Cinescape's Anna L. Kaplan. "I've made up a story for myself, that I think justifies the behaviour that I think they want. God only knows if any of it is going to jibe with what they eventually decide is the truth."
Billingsley felt that his concept of Phlox sets the right tone for the exploration-based series. "Having said that, my character, Dr. Phlox, I believe is from a planet of folks who are deeply philosophical, so much so that they have essentially turned their backs on the rest of the universe," he said. "My own sense of who I am in relationship to that culture is that I am something of an anomaly. I want to meet other species. I believe that a philosophical group is dependent on interacting with other cultures. I am as much an anthropologist as I am a doctor. So I have absented myself from my own home world, and am working on Earth as part of a Vulcan-sponsored medical exchange program when I am asked to join the crew of the Enterprise."
Despite all the technology on offer in the Enterprise sickbay, Dr. Phlox won't always rely on the latest techniques. "I am employing the latest scanners and gizmos and gadgets and what-have-you," Billingsley said. "All of that is in place. It's just that his own background is in a kind of intergalactic folk medicine. It's what you would get if you were in the backwoods of the Amazon - a poultice of weeds, or a good leeching. He's not beyond using anything that works, regardless of whether it's based in technology or based in primitive folklore. Shaman is sort of a word I throw out kind of lightly, but in many ways he is. I think like anybody who is as much anthropologist as doctor, he is very respectful of myth and religion and folklore."
The actor hoped that this trait will grow with the character over the course of the series. "I think I am sort of a pack rat and, as I said, something of an anthropologist, too," Billingsley said, laughing. "Any place I go, not only do I collect little knickknacks and curios for my own delectation, I am also gathering herbs and powders. The sense should be that this sickbay is teaming with life. I don't know from the scenes I have done so far that that's quite reading as strongly as I hope it eventually does. But maybe over the arc of seven years I will have accumulated enough."
The full interview, in which Billingsley also talked his makeup and Phlox's relationship with the crew, can be found here at Cinescape.