Lights! Phasers! Action!
[This is an excerpt from a longer article reviewing the work of all eight of Star Trek's actors-turned-directors]
Of Voyager's actors-turned-directors, McNeill is widely recognized by his castmates as the one most likely to pursue directing full time. From the outset, McNeill made his desire to direct known to Voyager's producers. "In the first seast, the very first month I was here, I went to Rick Berman and told him how much I'd always wanted the oppotunity to direct," recalls McNeill. Unlike many of his castmates, McNeill had already been pursuing the directing track before joining Trek, by observing on other series and doing his own short films.
He observed on Voyager for about a year before opportunity arose -- ironically, after Jonathan Frakes had to back out of directing the episode "Sacred Ground" because of conflicts with filming Star Trek: First Contact. "I dove right in, and had only about a week or two to get ready. That was a little scary. It took me by surprise, since I didn't think I was going to direct that season. The next time [around] I was much more prepared and much more confident because I was real proud of "Sacred Ground."
That he's both colleague and peer to the people he directs proved helpful in the transition behind the camera. "I know their strengths and I know the kind of language they like to use when they are acting or working. We have a shorthand, so we can get right to the point because we know each other so well," McNeill explains.
McNeill, who appreciates the independent film scene and has been developing some projects of his own, enjoys the collaboration behind the directing process. "Being an actor, I especially enjoy being able to work with actors. I can understand what they're going through, and I often know what the actors might need. I try to help them feel as good as they can, and to get the highest level of performance out of them."