season 2 publicity photo of Tom Paris

Chat with Robert Duncan McNeill
Star Trek's 30th Anniversary Celebration
Huntsville, Alabama
September, 1996

STAR TREK: CONTINUUM Host: We are pleased to welcome Robert Duncan McNeill, "Tom Paris" from "Star Trek: Voyager." Thanks for visiting with us today.

Mrs. B: Had you ever watched Star Trek before your role in the next generation?

Robert Duncan McNeill: Of course I have...who hasn't watched Star's been around forever. I was more a fan of Lost In Space though, but ever since I was on the Next Generation, I always hoped to come back and do more Star Trek.

Craig Gilley: How do you see Paris' changes from being the "outcast" to now being accepted as a member of the crew, but not being able to realize it himself?

Robert Duncan McNeill: I think it's important for Paris to become integrated with the group...I think he's got a lot of unique qualities that they can't let go of. He's got the quality of a rebel that can be helpful sometimes. They need to not lose his uniqueness.

Pierre: here you aware of what playing in Star Trek would represent? I mean, all the fandom, your face everywhere... Love your character BTW.

Robert Duncan McNeill: I think it was scarier at first because the Next Generation cast had become such a phenomenon that it was a little overwhelming. I sort of imagined what all of this was like, and reality is much nicer than my imagination. The people are great, the events I've been to have been really fun, and I really feel like part of the Star Trek family. It's a good thing, it's not overwhelming. It's not too much.

Mike: Dear Mr. McNeill, Tim Russ said that they can never get you back during filming because you face away from everyone. Have they ever gotten you back during breaks.

Robert Duncan McNeill: You mean practical jokes...because my back is to everyone, they've resorted to throwing balls of tape at me from behind, so I'm constantly being bombarded with projectiles from the stations behind me, even during filming.

Question: What role did you first audition for in any of the Star Trek shows?

Robert Duncan McNeill: Nicholas Locarno on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

John Edmonson: How do you compare the role of Tom Paris to Nick Locarno in "The First Duty"?

Robert Duncan McNeill: Even though there are similarities that both were outsiders, Locarno was deep down, a bad guy who everyone thought was a good guy. Paris is kind of the first you think he's not a nice guy, but deep down I think Paris is a real caring person and wants to do the right thing. So, they're almost opposite in my mind, in a weird way.

Ray: We know that Star Trek takes place centuries from now. However, is it your belief that the technology necessary for space travel will come before the time specified in the Star Trek films and episodes?

Robert Duncan McNeill: I think the only way we're going to create new scientific ideas and discoveries is to dream and to imagine these things. I don't know the time frame, but I know the only way we're going to travel to other planets or other stars is to dream about these things. Hopefully that will inspire people to make it a reality.

John Edmonson: Your character of Tom Paris seems much less troubled now than at first. Do you think Tom has finally come to terms with his past?

Robert Duncan McNeill: No. I don't think he's come to terms with his past, but I think he's discovered a way to redeem some of the mistakes he made. I think there's still a part of him that believes that thinking independently is valuable, and to break the rules is not always the wrong thing. Star Trek has this code of teamwork being the most important thing, and I think Tom Paris is unique in that he finds value in thinking for yourself, and that the group isn't always right and the individual has to assert himself and do what he believes in.

CSU Monterey Bay: Have you worked with Will Wheaton in any other media since Star Trek: The Next Generation?

Robert Duncan McNeill: No, but I saw him at the Screen Actors Guild Awards last year, and was really happy to see him. We had a great time and really bonded during that episode.

Dan: What's in store for the USS Voyager and her crew this season?

Robert Duncan McNeill: I think there's going to be a noticeable change in attitude of the crew this year. I think you're going to see the crew embracing this adventure rather than stewing in the fact that we're lost. I think there will be a positive effect from that attitude change and that'll lead to a lot more exciting stories.

Tim Mack: It's an old question; but as an "insider" what do you attribute the series popularity to?

Robert Duncan McNeill: It's an old question, but I have a new answer...I realized last week, watching Joseph Campbell being interviewed, that humans have always moved forward by dreaming, through mythology or religion, and today we know so much about our world, and through science there's so much that we can explain. The only thing left is space, and I think that space offers that sort of heroic mythology that you can't find in stories about our world anymore. You have to look to the frontier, and that's the only one left. I think it's a basic need to dream those dreams and look to those heroes to find our way to the unknown, and I think that's why it's so successful.

Michelle: Do you think that Tom Paris is a reflection of your own personality?

Robert Duncan McNeill: I think there are qualities of Tom Paris that I can very much relate to. Some of those qualities I suppress more than others, but what works best for any actor is when they find a personal way to portray their character in their scenes, and make it personal. I think my best work is when I find myself in Tom Paris, or Tom Paris in myself.

Joel: My wife & I were asking ourselves what Star Trek: Voyager character we like as much as Data, from Star Trek: The Next Generation (who is our ultimate favorite)...Lt. Tom Paris was the winner. We hope to see more shows focus on your developing relationship with the crew. Where would you like to see your character go? and Would you like to see the crew make it back to federation space and interact with Star Fleet?

Robert Duncan McNeill: I'm very honored, thank you. I would like to see a more balanced portrayal of my character. I think that the rebellious smart-aleck side of the character was portrayed a little to heavily the first season or two. There's a real intelligent, heroic sort of character underneath that I think needs some more exploration. I also think there's a romantic side. They brought Tom Paris on to be sort of your classic romantic lead, but the doctor's had five more girlfriends than I have in the last two years, so I think a more old-fashioned love-story would be good for my character.

John V: Is there one episode of Star Trek: Voyager that stands out as your favorite?

Robert Duncan McNeill: My favorite was "Sacred Ground", the episode I directed last season. It was a spiritual story for Capt. Janeway and besides being demanding creatively I felt that the theme of the story, about spiritual discovery was very important to me.

John Edmonson: Do you spend any time on the Internet yourself?

Robert Duncan McNeill: No. My hard drive's really screwed up, and I can barely play my daughter's kids games :).

Question: I know its early in the game, but realistically, do you think you'll ever get tired of doing Star Trek?

Robert Duncan McNeill: Ever is a long time, but right now I feel like I could do it for many years to come as long as I balanced it with some outside projects. I could do it for a long time.

Brian: What's your favorite outtake?

Robert Duncan McNeill: There are a lot of them, but last week I had a quick shot of me where I see a bad guy and I yell to Tuvok and the guest star to get down. We did a couple of takes with the camera rolling, then I asked for one more and yelled "get down!" and started dancing. Everyone laughed in dailies.

CSU Monterey Bay: Do you think you will be sitting down at a computer typing responses to fans in another 30 years?

Robert Duncan McNeill: I saw Walter Koenig and DeForest Kelley at breakfast, and they're still answering questions, so anything's possible.

STAR TREK: CONTINUUM Host: We'd like to thank Robert Duncan McNeill for chatting with us today.

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