Star Trek: Continuum Chat
Welcome to STAR TREK: CONTINUUM. We are coming to you LIVE from Paramount Studios in Hollywood, California.
Today we are honored to have as our special guest... Robert Duncan McNeill! Robert plays "Tom Paris" on "Star Trek: Voyager." He first donned a Starfleet uniform back in 1992, in the "Star Trek: The Next Generation" episode "The First Duty." He played cadet Nicholas Locarno. He is here with us today to answer your questions.
Robert is busy working on the set of "Star Trek: Voyager" and even though we are only a few dozen yards away, he is not able to join us here in our offices. He needs to be available at a moment's notice to return to the set to shoot a scene. Robert has graciously agreed to join us by phone from his trailer, just outside the soundstage.
Your host for tonight's chat is Guy Vardaman, Senior Producer for STAR TREK: CONTINUUM. Jackie Edwards is typing for our guest.
Welcome, Robert! We are delighted that you could join us today.
Guy Vardaman: (Robbie actually began this chat outside the soundstage doors on a cell phone!)
Robert Duncan McNeill: Hello! I have 15 minutes between shots, so we'll see how many we get done.
Jolza asks: Does it bother you that Paris' rebellious tendencies disappeared from the show quite early?
Robert Duncan McNeill: At first it bothered me but the reason we did it was in a series, breaking the rules week after week gets kinda boring. We wanted him to be more heroic. We tried to incorporate a rebel into a hero character.
Defiant382 asks: Robert, nice to see you chatting online. There is a rumor going around that the relationship between B'Elanna and Tom is going to end? Is this true? and if it is, why?
Robert Duncan McNeill: No I don't think it's going to end. I think that they tried to get away from it being a soap opera thing, but I don't think they're getting away from it. We're still very active physically, so I don't think we have any problems there. We'll stop right there or else B'Elanna will beat me up.
riot_grrl asks: How do you think Voyager will make it back to the Alpha quadrant?
Robert Duncan McNeill: I don't know what's going to happen for a fact but my instinct is that we'll make it back by the end of next year which will be the end of the series.
Kym Pantlin asks: What does your wife/girlfriend think about Tom and B'Elanna's relationship on the set and what does she think about you playing in that relationship?
Robert Duncan McNeill: She knows Roxann and she knows Roxann's husband, who might beat me up, so she feels pretty comfortable about it. He rides a Harley like I do so I don't want to test it. I think Voyager will get back to the Alpha Quadrant in the spin off called Tom Paris in space... or the adventures of Capt. Proton. We're bouncing around several titles. Just kidding.
Keith Graf asks: Would you direct any more Voyager episodes if the opportunity arises? How did your experience with directing Voyager compare to acting in Voyager?
Robert Duncan McNeill: Yeah I'd love to direct more but there's a long line for that though. Directing Voyager is a lot more exhausting than acting in it. The shows are so big, they're little mini movies and they take a lot of mental and emotional stamina. As a director, we have such a great crew and cast, it's a lot of fun just coming in. The directors on these shows have to deal with a lot.
Keith Graf asks: Is your production "The Battery" available anywhere?
Robert Duncan McNeill: No, I can't sell it because I produced it, thanks to the volunteer efforts of the cast, and I promised I wouldn't sell it. It's only showing at festivals and we've shown it at charity benefits. I promised I wouldn't make money off it. Someone asked if they could put it on an Internet film festival but I couldn't because it would be a violation of my deal with the actors. It's really for festivals and competition type things.
jimmy stewart asks: Is it true that Kate Mulgrew isn't going to sign for a 7th season and they're gonna kill her off?
Robert Duncan McNeill: As far as I know Kate is staying as long as everyone else is staying on the show. Or until Tom Paris takes over the ship and becomes Capt. Paris. Captain Paris aka Proton.
Clint Williams asks: Robert, I'm a huge fan. I love the combo of angst and attitude that Paris displays. Being a follically challenged individual, I was wondering, and please don't be offended, but is that a hair piece you wear on Voyager. Your hair seems to have changed.
Robert Duncan McNeill: It is NOT a hairpiece, but they put so much hairspray and products on my hair that it might as well be. It takes on a life of its own. They use a lot of product on my hair and it's been the subject of many heated debates over the years. I think the style I have now on the show is more in line with what I'd like Paris to have instead of the more bouffant version.
Christie asks: Is it ever confusing to have so many "Roberts" in the cast?
Robert Duncan McNeill: Well, not for us because we all answer to different versions. I go by Robbie, Robert Picardo goes by Bob and Robert Beltran goes by Robert. So for us it's not a problem. But for any guest people that we want to tease we can certainly make use of three Roberts on the show.
Alan & Sonya Brown ask: We are fans from Scotland and are interested in finding out if you have Scottish ancestors as your name is wonderfully Scottish.
Robert Duncan McNeill: Yes I am Scotch/Irish from North Carolina and I have been to Ireland though never to Scotland yet. I definitely have quite a bit of Scottish blood.
Davis Blackman asks: There are hundreds of sites on the internet dedicated to you and the other cast members. Some debating which guy is the cutest. Is there any rivalry on set about who gets the most female attention and if so who does?
Robert Duncan McNeill: Well, you know, I really feel sorry for the other men on the show... being compared to such a high standard as myself...
Guy Vardaman: (Robert Beltran is laughing, and Garrett Wang just fell down)
Robert Duncan McNeill: I really pity them because they try to keep up with the attention I get from women... just kidding. No rivalry. I'm married with three kids. Maybe there's a bit of it between our single men, but I sit on the sidelines and laugh at them and their women.
kaspa asks: The director of some voyager episodes is Anson Williams. Is this the same person who was Potsie on Happy Days?
Robert Duncan McNeill: Yes, we have had Potsie directing Star Trek.
Riss asks: The fans are dying to know, almost every character on Voyager, including the women, have appeared without a shirt on, but you have yet to appear in any less than a tank top. Are you concerned about this apparent bias against you?
Robert Duncan McNeill: Well, I think they realize how out of control the audience might get if I actually took my shirt off. You know, I haven't been aware of it though I'm a little modest. I tend to be a little modest so I probably have never encouraged them to do that but I would be happy to do whatever was needed for the good of the show. For the good of the franchise I'll go buck naked if need be.
Terri Zavaleta asks: What did you learn from being a guest star on other shows that you now apply when working with guests on Voyager?
Robert Duncan McNeill: I've never really thought of it, that's an interesting point of view. I think our cast is very good at treating everybody equally. There's no egos and I think guest stars always feel very comfortable and speak very highly of their experiences. As I did about my experience on TNG. They are shooting the scene without me because I didn't want to let you down on this chat. :)
Marc Wade: Robbie is now walking to his trailer. They've given him a break - he's not in the next shot.
Cosette asks: Are there any out-takes from Voyager that you hope are burned and never shown again?
Robert Duncan McNeill: Probably every outtake. There is one where I got burned. There is one where I was literally burned when we were shooting Capt. Proton flying with a rocket pack through space. I was burned by sparks in a very delicate part of my anatomy. Think cheeks.
Terri Zavaleta asks: Have your stunning good looks been more of a help or a hindrance in obtaining the roles you wanted in TV or films?
Robert Duncan McNeill: Thank you. I don't know if the way that I look has helped or hurt. But I do know that I always hoped that I would be a character actor and that's a hard thing to do with the type of looks I have. I always wanted to play quirky off-beat characters... That I would love to be able to... the greasy drug addict role. But it's hard for people to see me in them.
Star-1 asks: Hi, Robbie. I heard that you are the biggest prankster on the set. Is that true? :)
Robert Duncan McNeill: Yes. I proudly accept that honor, yes.
genesis asks: Hi, Robert, i was just wondering, if you can describe such an event in words, what you first felt when you stepped inside the Voyager studio.
Robert Duncan McNeill: I felt like I'd jumped onto a high speed train that was already at full speed and I knew it was still going to be a long ride. It really had a unique feeling. Most shows you begin them not really knowing what they could be and they're sort of a learning process everyone goes through. But Voyager you knew from the beginning that this was a franchise that was loved world wide. We were stepping into that history. It was pretty overwhelming.
Parisfan@erols.com asks: I was just wondering if you knew why so many crew members are suddenly referring to Janeway as "sir". Up until this season it was either "Ma'am." or Captain?
Robert Duncan McNeill: I hadn't noticed that. They interchange them I think for no reason at all. It could just be the result of the writers. Whoever the writers are might tend to use one word or the other more.
Cerise asks: Are your kids old enough to watch Star Trek yet? :) If so, do they get excited to see you onscreen? :) Thanks!
Robert Duncan McNeill: No, they'd rather watch Rugrats or Alex Mack or some Nickelodeon show or go see Star Wars for the 10th time. For some reason they feel what Daddy does can't be as cool as these other things. They've seen it but the mystique has been harnessed a bit because they see me at work on it. My kids were just here eating all the bagels and fruit and taking all the gum from our prop box.
Vorik asks: Over here in Australia there were rumors that there is going to be a mutiny on Voyager, can you shed any light on the subject?
Robert Duncan McNeill: This could be part of my spin off but I haven't heard anything about the mutiny...
Malte Kirchner / DSi asks: Robert, what do you think about the news from Germany that they replaced the German voice of Tom Paris beginning with the beginning of the 5th season. Did you ever heard the German dubbed version of Voyager?
Robert Duncan McNeill: No, I haven't heard the dubbed version but I hear it's very entertaining for those who work on the show. Sort of like all our little traits are magnified. I would love to hear it. Anyone have a tape they can spare?
LOL asks: I saw you in Early Edition and you were terrific! Do you have any plans to do spots on other shows?
Robert Duncan McNeill: No specific plans, although Kyle Chandler on that show, Early Edition, told me they hope to bring back my character. So we'll see if that happens. I actually would love to go back and possibly direct Early Edition. Kyle and I have known each other since we did a show called Home Front together. We get along great. I'd love to go back and work on that show either as an actor or director.
DAVE from Penn State '93 asks: Mr. McNeill, What is the most challenging part of being an actor on "Voyager"?
Robert Duncan McNeill: I think one of the most challenging things are the special effects we never see whether it's a blue screen or whatever that we just don't see on the stage... we have to imagine them and it's hard to picture it and know just what it's going to be. The technobabble is no piece of cake either.
Lyos asks: If you had three wishes, what would they be?
Robert Duncan McNeill: I don't think we can put that on the internet...
Lyos asks:Do you like being famous?
Robert Duncan McNeill: I don't feel that comfortable being recognized or being a 'celebrity'. I get uncomfortable with a lot of attention at public places so it's not something I originally set out to achieve. When you get a good table at a restaurant, it's not so bad being a celebrity.
Brent asks: Boxers or Briefs?
Robert Duncan McNeill: Boxerbriefs.
Brooke asks: Can I have your autograph?
Robert Duncan McNeill: Over the internet?
LtLeah or Lynsee Cain asks: How did the Delta Flyer get its name and do you like to pilot her?
Robert Duncan McNeill: The Delta Flyer is a bit of a reference to the 1940's WWII aircraft...and yes, it's much more interesting than old shuttles with the interior design.
SVSO asks: Mr McNeill! Has Roxann Dawson already directed a Voyager`s episode, and if yes how did she manage the job?
Robert Duncan McNeill: No, she hasn't directed yet. But she is directing sometime soon.
Stela (from Berlin/Germany) asks: Hiya Robbie, thank you very much for having made the trip over to Bristol last weekend!!! Shame I can't ask you to sing on the net *grin* but rumour has it that you do play an instrument, namely the guitar. Is that correct?
Robert Duncan McNeill: I learned to play the guitar for a Broadway show...called Six Degrees of Separation... I don't play the guitar very well, but I play piano a little bit...mostly by ear....Mostly I play piano to sing to but I don't really play. I used to play piano and sing songs with friends and I love sitting down at a party or with friends or my kids now and be able to sing together and play the piano. It's a great thing to do. I'm much more comfortable with piano than guitar, though I have played guitar. During hiatus when the Voyager cast goes on our World Wide R&R tour, I'll be playing the keyboards for that.
Ronda asks: I heard from friends that you sang at Nexus 99, why don't you sing at your US cons?
Robert Duncan McNeill: Because I don't have a piano available...
John Doering asks: I have a question about the props used on the show, like the phasers, tricorders, etc. Do they feel realistic in weight and texture or are they just hollow plastic forms? Thanks.
Robert Duncan McNeill: For most of the props on the show, we have 2 versions...an empty one when it's not seen very well by the camera... very light and feel fake. And another version that has lights and electronics and actually works for closeups. Those feel pretty close to what you'd expect. Like the weight of a portable phone. But I've broken so many working tricorders and things they don't trust me very often with those.
Marbeo asks: As a teenage fan of Star Trek and of you, I am wondering what your favorite subjects in high school were and also if you were a fan of science fiction yourself before Star Trek?
Robert Duncan McNeill: I didn't watch a whole lot of SF when I was younger. I was a big fan of Lost in Space... I was very young... as an adolescent I loved the show Space: 1999... other than those two shows, I didn't really become focused on SF that much. My favorite subjects in school were...most people think that because I'm an actor I must have loved English but I loved Math and science and physics. I also liked English Lit... I liked reading. But Physics was probably my favorite subject.
Erin Howarth asks: Did you spend any time with any member of the Voyager cast during this sabbatical?
Robert Duncan McNeill: Robert Beltran and I dated briefly, but other than that...
I see them at conventions, but our cast is strange because we get along better than any group I've ever known but we see each other so much at work that we don't get together away from work. We have busy families and things like that, but we get along very well.
Stacy Marshall asks: What was it like to work with Courteney Cox in "Masters of the Universe"?
Robert Duncan McNeill: Courteney and I got along great. We were like brother and sister.
Trekster asks: Do you think we'll ever see a gay character or episode on Voyager?
Robert Duncan McNeill: Robert and I have really fought for a gay episode...I don't know. I don't know! I'm not producing or writing. I directed an episode and hired Scott Thompson who is an openly gay actor and was wonderful and I'm glad he was able to be on the show. I think in our own ways we deal with all sorts of experiences and I don't know if ST is a political forum to make statements, but I think sexuality has been dealt with many times on ST and would like to see more.
Q asks: When are we going to see your Harley on the holodeck? It would be a lot more interesting than the cars you've been fixing up.
Robert Duncan McNeill: I would like to see Paris on an away mission with his Harley. So that's what I'm working on and I did almost get my Harley on the episode when I worked in a garage... but I haven't given up yet.
Marc Wade: Thank you very much, Robbie, for taking the time to chat with us today. (Robert's been called back to work...)
Robert Duncan McNeill: I have to go work now. Thanks for having me and I'll see you next time.
Marc Wade: We're all looking forward to the upcoming sixth season of "Star Trek: Voyager."
Robert Duncan McNeill: I can't think of anything funny to say so I'm just going to get back to work.Copyright (C) 1999 by Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.