Trinneer Regales TrekTrak with Tales of TuckerBy Michelle Erica Green
Posted at October 24, 2005 - 5:23 PM GMT
"If I've told [these stories] too many times, just stand up and tell me to shut up," Connor Trinneer cheerfully told a convention audience at his Q&A before good-naturedly tackling his first question: boxers or briefs? ("Boxers, if it's anything at all.")
Speaking at DragonCon's TrekTrak in Atlanta earlier this fall, Trinneer said that he could hardly have asked for more than he got to do on Star Trek: Enterprise, where he played Trip Tucker for four years. "Heck, I was pregnant, I was cloned, I was dead," he recalled. "One of the great things about sci-fi is that it's really full of rich imagination. I really could not have added anything more to what they did for me...I was really happy with where they took that character." Like most of the cast, he blames network shenanigans for the cancellation of the series, saying that Enterprise's ratings were not significantly lower than previous series but guessing that "Shows that cost that much money to make must get better ratings...I don't think it was a quality issue."
Trinneer said he understood fan dissatisfaction with the finale, reiterating statements by other Enterprise actors that "we were all, as a cast, disappointed. We felt a little bit hurt by the fact that we weren't allowed to be the ones to end our show." He added that he loves Jonathan Frakes (Riker) and Marina Sirtis (Troi), but thinks that even they felt like "fish out of water" in the finale. "We put in a lot of work, so to have that sort of ripped from you at the very end...if they'd been able to have it make sense to me, I would have been fine with it," explained Trinneer, who said that he understands that writers have a difficult job trying to wrap the show, but he believes there must have been a way the Enterprise cast could have finished out the series. "It's one thing to get cancelled, it's another thing to do someone else's show for your finale," he protested, to much applause.
The actor did not even attend the series wrap party, which he described as a studio-fueled cavalcade of Star Trek stars from previous shows that half of his own cast did not attend. Instead he went to Australia. However, he has no major complaints about his character's fate, though he was unsure why it was scripted as it was. The character's death "created conversation which was what they wanted", he noted. "They were going to kill somebody and I just happened to get in the way!" He figured that "if they're going to cancel the show, kill me off", and although he felt that the death scene itself was scripted somewhat arbitrarily because "I've gotten out of much worse scrapes than that", he was pleased that the producers used the last episode to tell a Trip story.
In the absence of firm information from the series bible, Trinneer had imagined Tucker to be from Oklahoma, and was distressed to learn a few episodes into filming that he was supposed to be from Florida, explaining that the accent he was doing was Oklahoma, not Florida:
It was important to me to play a Southern guy with intelligence and grace, because that doesn't happen a lot on TV...the default on playing a good ole southern boy is that you can make him funny, but he's funny because he's dumb.
In one episode they had scripted that Trip had been wrong about the ship's speed and distance for several days, and he insisted that the man in charge of engineering would know exactly where the ship was and how fast it was moving. During his audition, he added, he messed up his lines because it was his third audition of the day and doubted he would get cast because there were so many better looking guys at callbacks, but once he overheard some of the readings he decided that he was the best actor. When he was cast as the engineer, he thought that he would have days off when engineering was not playing an important role, and was surprised to be in so many scenes in the pilot.
Interestingly, although Trinneer thinks the series found its stride in the fourth season under Manny Coto's show-running, he is not particularly a fan of the Mirror Universe episodes that hearkened back most directly to the original Star Trek. "I found those really difficult," he confessed, adding that the entire cast hated doing them. They felt that the two-parter, so near the series' end, was an attempt to throw in original series references that weren't grounded in anything from Enterprise, and "when you play a role for 98 television hours, and then you're asked to play that role totally differently, nobody knows how you're supposed to do it." During rehearsals he recalled the director telling them to "'Get meaner!'" where nobody understood exactly what that meant. When he saw it, "I thought it looked cool...but the rest, I didn't understand it."
Asked by a fan about the lack of long-term relationships on any of the Star Trek shows, Trinneer said, "In my situation specifically, my character is dealing with a character who didn't show her emotions at all. I did have a conversation with [the writers] about our relationship...after a certain point I felt that they had taken Trip's spine away from him and he was just following her around: 'You want to get married? Okay. Take your time.'" Trinneer felt it was something of a "dealbreaker" to be with someone like T'Pol who refused to show emotions and only wanted to have sex once every seven years. He also noted that a military situation is "not really one that's conducive to 'Captain, I'm in love...I just wanted to share that with you'", a remark which made the crowd howl in amusement. When a fan later joked that it was brave of Trinneer to acknowledge Tucker's forbidden love for Archer, he said straightfaced, "I think that subtext played throughout the series. I don't know if you noticed it. I fixed his chair, I was jealous of the dog..." And, grinning, "Go back and watch some of these episodes and it's really subversive in that regard."
As for the romantic scenes with T'Pol, Trinneer found those nearly as difficult as the alternate universe scenario. "You do these scenes with people that you develop friendships with on the show, and it's generally uncomfortable to go in there and do a sex scene," he noted. "That sounds stupid, but it's true." Having never had romantic feelings for Jolene Blalock, nor she for him, and having 30 people making faces behind the camera, "To go in there and try to get the reality...the fact that people can make it look sexy is the wonder of filmmaking." Performing Shakespeare, he added, was easier than technobabble: "Shakespeare's not hard. It was written by a genius...I had to say stuff on Star Trek that's not even words."
Though the producers refused to admit that the Xindi arc was intended to be an allegory for the aftermath of the events of 9/11, Trinneer said that for him that understanding influenced the entire third season and the way he portrayed Tucker's grief and anger over the death of his sister. Asked what he used for motivation for crying onscreen - images of dead puppies or tragic childhood incidents - he joked, "I was big baby on the show, wasn't I?" but added that he really needed little imagination to be able to work up emotion for the events. When he had to react to the news of Tucker's sister's death, he said he just imagined having to be without his own sister, and when his character and T'Pol had a baby, he had only just learned that his own wife was pregnant. He explained that actors can force tears by using "stuff like Noxema" under the eyes and putting their heads down. "Tears are a'flowin. But that was very rare; I was usually really crying."
Asked what show he most wished he could have done, Trinneer said he would have wanted to be on Six Feet Under - "I think that was the best show on television" - or to play "the President of the United States or something stupid like that." When that last comment met with applause, he added, "Let's not get started. I might agree with it, but others might not!" The actor holds an MFA degree in acting and directing and had plans to tail Voyager actor and Enterprise director Robert Duncan McNeill (Paris) when he directed an upcoming episode of The O.C. to study the craft. He filmed an episode of Stargate: Atlantis that he had heard might spawn a sequel, but he said that if it did not happen, he would be happy in a few months working on something else and being a daddy. He had originally planned to follow his parents into teaching and become a football coach, but noted that when he quit football despite having earned a letter and a spot on the team, everyone was very supportive.
The actor admitted that his wife was "a little nervous" about him going to conventions because she had heard stories of hanky-panky but she went with him to one in Las Vegas and afterward "she was like, 'oh, fine.'" He said that his minor celebrity never really affects them in Los Angeles because there are so many actors, though perhaps once a week someone will politely tell him his work is appreciated, which he enjoys. "I'm only a celebrity to you guys, god bless you all," grinned Trinneer. "To the rest of the world, they don't really know who I am."
Trinneer talked about much more during his hour, including how the Enterprise cast learned the song and dance from Scott Bakula's Canada Dry Ginger Ale commercial to sing when he came in to work one day. TrekTrak has already announced some preliminary plans for the 2006 convention, including an appearance by Denise Crosby (Tasha Yar). Thanks to Eric L. Watts for the video footage.
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Michelle Erica Green is a news writer for the Trek Nation. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.