Star Trek Monthly #20, Oct. 1996

Vulcan Visions

After finally landing the part of Star Trek: Voyager’s resident Vulcan, Tim Russ (Tuvok) says there wasn’t time to rest on his proverbial laurels. Expectations for the new series were high, which meant a great deal of pressure on its cast. “Those first days were like, ‘I’ve got to get this scene right, I’ve got to make it play.’ The anxiety factor that was built into it for all of us was the fact that ‘You’ve got the part,’ but we also knew that in the first week of shooting, they’re either going to tweak that performance or they’re going to replace it. If anything was going to happen, it was going to happen in that first week. You weren’t guaranteed until you got on film, someone saw you in dailies and gave you a thumbs-up. That’s when you know you’re home, so the anxiety factor had to do with that.”

In spite of the pressure, every member of the ST:VOY cast knew they wanted the series to be something special. “We all wanted the pilot to be successful,” says Russ. “We wanted the job, and certainly didn’t want the show to go down, so we all knew we were going to pitch in. I’ve only gone to the producers a couple of times to battle over character concepts – how Tuvok’s portrayed, what they have him doing – because they were inconsistent, in my opinion. To me, that is worth raising hell. It’s not about money or how big your trailer is, it’s about your character and his integrity.

“I think some of the other actors, because they’re playing new characters that are still being developed, do not have that obligation to their characters. They’re still creating certain elements, so they only have certain Starfleet parameters to follow. Often, they don’t even know what they are, so that gives them a little more flexibility. My character is more of a problem, because it’s already been determined what he’s like. Because I’m playing a Vulcan, we have to work closely to certain parameters; I don’t have the same flexibility.”

According to Russ, the chemistry that viewers see on screen between the crew members is directly related to the way they get along off-screen. “There’s a great bond between us, and the way we feel about each other is translated directly into our characters. There’s a little bit of tension between Tuvok and some of the others because of what had happened before.”

Looking to the future, Tim Russ hopes to use Star Trek: Voyager as a major launching pad for his career. “I may or may not consider directing an episode of the show down the line to get my feet wet [since this interview was conducted he will be directing one outing for the crew in season three], but from a producer/director standpoint, I’d rather direct something of my own. I’m also working on a few projects with a buddy of mine, that we’re trying to get off the ground.

“There’s also an advantage to being in a successful series on the air. It’s possible to work consistently in Los Angeles for 20 years and not be known to anyone in the business, as opposed to being half a season in a successful series. Now I can call up anybody in this town and say, ‘This is Tim Russ,’ and they will return my call because they want to be associated with someone who is making a name for themselves. It’s that kind of thing that I can use as a platform, and I fully intend to do that.”


Interview by Joe Nazzaro.