Picardo: Berman Predicted The EMH's PopularityBy Caillan
December 11, 2004 - 9:48 AM
Robert Picardo (the Doctor) recently revealed Rick Berman had predicted his character would be the most popular Voyager crew member before the show had even premiered.
"I remember Rick Berman putting his arm around me at a party and saying, 'You're going to be the most popular character on the show'," Picardo said in a video interview at StarTrek.com. "I thought he was from outer space, because as far as I was concerned, I had the worst part on the show. My character was described as a colourless, humourless, computer program of a doctor. Now does that sound like a lot of fun to you?"
Although the EMH was only a bit-player in the Voyager pilot, "Caretaker", by the end of the series seven years later, he was one of the three principal characters on the show, together with Captain Janway and Seven of Nine. "No one was more surprised by the emergence of the character's popularity than me, because I just didn't get it, I didn't see it," Picardo said. "I think part of the problem was that I didn't really understand the character when I did the pilot. It wasn't until we got into the first couple of episodes when I started to understand where the writers were headed and why this notion of a computer program with a bad attitude was funny, but also touching."
The actor was so turned off by the Doctor that he originally auditioned for a character that was more fleshed-out in the pilot script, that of the Talaxian Neelix. But fate intervened, and Picardo, who studied pre-med at Yale, ended up with the role of the hologram with bad bedside manner. "I suppose it isn't just a coincidence that my childhood ambition was to be a doctor, and then going off to college thinking I was going to become a doctor, and the fact that I've spent 11 years being a television doctor," the actor said, referring to his years as the EMH on Voyager and Dr. Dick Richard on China Beach. "There was something in my persona, that if I was not destined to be a real doctor, [I was able] to fake it successfully."
But there was one key difference between his medical roles on China Beach and Voyager: hair. "I did wear a hairpiece for China Beach, which, incidentally, I don't recommend if you're working under a helicopter as I was. I asked whether [the Voyager producers] wanted me with or without hair, and they said, 'We want you just as you are, we've had a great deal of success with bald men'."
The complete three-part video interview with Robert Picardo, in which he also talks about how he started in the acting business and Star Trek conventions, can be viewed here at StarTrek.com.