McNeill Hoped Voyager Would Lead To Directing

By Christian
April 30, 2001 - 1:31 PM

Robert Duncan McNeill, the Tom Paris actor who has seen his directing career take off dramatically over the past few years, recently said that Trek's reputation for allowing actors to direct was one of the reasons he wanted to join Voyager.

"I have to be honest, I kind of hoped that this might happen," Paris told Ian Spelling at Starburst Magazine (via RanDoM Flight. "When I got the call from my agents about Star Trek, I was off in New York doing a play, an off-Broadway play. My agent said that they wanted to put me on tape for this new Star Trek show. I had remembered my experience as a guest star on The Next Generation. I had been aware of what happened with Jonathan Frakes, with his transitioning into directing. I was aware of how secure and how comfortable it could be to be an actor on a Star Trek series. So when I got the call from my agents, I took it very seriously. I really wanted to land this role, probably more than any role I'd auditioned for."

After McNeill was hired on the show, he immediately started preparing to direct. "When we came in to do the pilot for Voyager, before we'd even been guaranteed a pickup as a series, I talked to [producer] Rick Berman," McNeill revealed. "[I] said, 'If this goes, I immediately want to start on observing directing. I want to do more with my time here if we end up making the show for many years.' So I tried right away to learn about all the different aspects of working on the show. Now here we are at the end of the run, and, in a business where you can't depend on things very often, this has been a rare treat. I made a plan for myself, personally, and achieved it on many levels. So it's been a great, comfortable ride for me in many ways."

McNeill's transition into directing has been one of the most successful of any Trek star. Besides directing Voyager episides such as 'Someone To Watch Over Me' and 'Body and Soul,' he also directed the short films 'The Battery' and '9mm of Love.' Barring an actors' strike, he is currently lined up to direct an episode of Dawson's Creek.

Of late, especially '9mm of Love' has attracted a lot of attention. "[The film] has all of a sudden taken off and it was an award winner at the Sun Valley Film Festival. It was at the Slamdance Film Festival in Park City. So there's a lot of interest in the film. The HBO/Comedy Arts Festival [recently showed the film]. I've got several projects I'm trying to produce. So I've been busy with all sorts of things."

Currently, '9mm of Love' is also available for download on the web site of Exposure, the Sci-Fi Channel series on which the film was shown yesterday.

More from McNeill can be found in the April 2001 issue of StarBurst, which can be directly ordered from the magazine's web site. A full transcript of the interview, in which the Voyager actor talks about the lack of screentime his character has sometimes had and the episode 'Author, Author,' can be found here on RanDoM Flight.

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