Jane Hamilton caught up with Tim Russ, Tuvok from Voyager, on his recent visit to the UK.
Tim Russ is sitting in Glasgow’s Forbidden Planet looking tired and uncomfortable, behind a table that doesn’t look large enough to accommodate his 6 foot frame when I arrive for our interview. You can tell it’s been a long day and an even longer week for him throughout his tour of the UK to promote his CD, entitled quite simply ‘Tim Russ’. But, despite a slight technical hitch with my recording equipment which Tim sorted (Thanks Tim!), he is pleasant and eager to talk.
With an appearance in Generations The movie and further appearances in both DS9 and the next Gen. Tim Russ was a familiar face in trekdom before Voyager and unlike many of his colleagues admits to being a ‘fan’ of the TOS. “ I wasn’t a dedicated fan, but I was familiar with the TOS because I watched it at college. I didn’t really watch the other two shows so I kinda grew up with TOS” Despite not being a dedicated fan, Russ’s view on why Star Trek is so appealing makes you wonder if he is drawing from personal experience.
“ Star Trek appeals to dedicated fans. It creates a world and a future which is far more optimistic and idealistic than what we have today. Generally people are judged, in the Star Trek world, on their character and not on their lifestyle, colour, race or their physical type....they are based purely on their character and actions and I think that's a very ideal world.” So, if people are judged by their character I was a little surprised to find that Russ was nothing like his alter-ego, a point he readily disagreed with.
“There’s a little bit of my personality in the character....” he goes on to explain that there’s probably about 25% of his own personality in Tuvok and states that most actors have bits of their own personalities in the characters they play “that’s what keeps the character honest and gives them their appeal”
“Some actors develop a technique; for me this role is very easy to jump in and out of at a moments notice. That's just the way it is....part of this acting job is being able to find the character, to execute them and go home”
Having one of the most recognisable faces, apart from the ears that is, on world wide television must make for some pretty funny encounters with fans....no?
Tim gives a little smile and you just know he has a story to tell.... “Not a funny encounter...I had a rather strange encounter with a fan, in a video store of all places in the US. He was African nobleman and he had tattoos all over his body, earrings, a plate in his lip and was dressed in full African dress and he turns to me and says ‘You’re on Star Trek. We watch it in Tanzania’” Must be a first for a trek actor to be in awe of a fan and not vice versa! Indeed, Tim admits his first con appearance was ‘sobering’: to be in one place with that many excited fans was, for him, an eye-opener.
Voyager has came under a lot of criticism lately, and not just from the fans, but from the actors too and I was hesitant about asking Tim his opinion on where his character was going and the usual ‘what’s your favourite episode’....I know it’s the same old tired questions......
“Riddles is a good show..it examines the relationship between Tuvok and Neelix (Ethan Phillips) and it’s a very good episode. In terms of working on the show, one of my favourite episodes to shoot was ‘Futures End’ because I got to shoot on location, the weather was beautiful, I got to wear civilian clothes..” So, you don’t like the Starfleet uniform then, Tim? “ and I was working with Robbie Duncan McNeil (Paris) who’s a lot of fun and a guest actress who is a comedian so it was just a blast. It was a very casual, different route for working those two weeks”
Tim’s association with the Franchise is probably longer than most of his colleagues and I wanted to know where he thought the franchise was going after Voyager finishes it’s 7 season run. “It’s hard to say, my guess is as good as anybody else's. They will eventually come out with another series but I don’t know when”. Hardly surprising there, considering the actors are usually the last to know anything. What about a big screen Voyager movie? Would he do it?
“From a work stand-point, it’s good for an actor to say I’ll be there, I’ll do it. It might be exciting to do a story with a very large budget and SFX, it’d be a kind of a kick to be able to do it over a longer time.” he pauses for thought here and then smiles “ Yeah, I’ll do it!”
Russ has been an actor for 22 years and is mutli-talented to say the least. He has impressive credits, not to mention his skills as a producer, writer, singer, songwriter and director. What does he hope to achieve next? “ I’m hoping that before Voyager finishes, to keep on with music. I have my own production, I’ve already released a project and I’m working on a project for the internet now and a feature script so I will keep on working. What I’d like to do on a full time basis is direct and just go from project to project.”
Whether Voyager makes it to the big screen or not, there is little doubt that someone with Russ’s talents and abilities is going to be out of work for any period of time. I'm sure we will be seeing a lot more of Mr Tim Russ in the near future. Girls, the ears don't do him any justice. And what a smile! Live long and be Prosperous!