I like Picardo from Star Trek: Voyager where he played the Emergency Medical Hologram. The character is excellent, and the smaller configuration to the large hall worked well for Picardo’s panel. He immediately started answering questions, talking about his experiences first on Stargate and then on ST:VOY.
- One of his favorite scenes: “Message in a Bottle” where he meets another EMH, and describes how he has expanded his programming to allow him to have sexual relations;
- Did he make suggestions to the ST writers: He did, including that when he was alone in sick bay, maybe he could listen to opera — one of the most emotional art forms — and yet when the writers incorporated it, they had him singing to it too (which was not part of his suggestion). He also made suggestions for jokes, but not story arc. In the Message in a Bottle episode, again, there’s a scene where the two EMHs are trying to pilot the prototype ship, and Picardo says “Stop breathing down my neck”, to which the other EMH replies “I’m a hologram, my breathing is only a simulation.” Picardo’s response? “So’s my neck, stop doing it anyway.” Perfect hologram humour;
- An actor/actress he hadn’t worked with yet: He noted that when he first started working, he got to play Jack Lemmon’s son. As a result, he got to meet Henry Fonda, Shirley Maclean, Walter Matthau, etc. He thinks Robert Duvall is amazing and is looking forward to the new movie, “The Judge”. He also said he would love to do a play with Al Pacino;
- How/why he was cast: He said he got the role surprisingly because he wanted to play him in a multi-faceted way, with personality, not as an automaton. He pitched several ideas, not all of which got made. One that didn’t was about time travel to San Francisco at time of the earthquake, working with a suffragette, and singing with Enrico Caruso. He suggested when Seven of Nine came on board that perhaps the Doctor could teach her about humanity, since Kes had done the same for him. He said he loved doing the “Lifeline” episode where he got to play both roles, one as EMH and one as the EMH’s creator, Dr. Zimmerman. He noted it was an extremely technical episode in terms of making sure they stood in precise locations, at the right angle, etc., so the computer control could merge the two performances later. However, while he joked that it was the best experience working with such an awesome actor, he noted that in a lot of the scenes, he didn’t take into account a crucial factor — as Zimmerman, he slouched, while as EMH, he stood erect, and as a result, their eyes don’t line up when they look at each other as he was looking at his “equal height” rather than adjusting for his other character’s posture;
- Experience filming China Beach: He noted that much of the show dealt with a serious part of history and how the war had been extremely divisive in the U.S. For the first time, those who disagreed with the war cast their blame even on the individual soldiers returning, not just the politicians, so there were lots of military members who came home, and never talked about it. Lots of people said that watching the show with their kids allowed them to talk about their experiences in ways they hadn’t before. But at a recent cast reunion, they noted the levity too. For example, there was a scene where Dana Delaney was supposed to be doing a complicated heart surgery and had her hand in the dummy’s chest. After about the third or fourth take, a crew member hid under the gurney, and put their hands up through the prop. So when Dana grabbed the heart, the heart “grabbed back”, scaring the daylights out of her. Picardo said he also got to add a bunch of small jokes here and there, most of which weren’t allowed by the censors. But one made it through, when a soldier came in during a Xmas episode, with a gunshot to the groin. Picardo wrote the line “You have a cartridge in your pear tree” and the censors allowed it.
- Experience in filming Innerspace: In the movie, he played a high-tech thief with what was supposed to be an Iranian accent. He said he had two main memories of the movie. First, in the “big scene”, Picardo’s face is supposed to morph onto Martin Short’s and then a few seconds later you see him playing another role, but without the CGI abilities they have now. So they shot it as a single scene — Picardo did his first part as Short’s character, showing Picardo’s face, and then paces out of the scene a bit, with Martin Short pacing back in but you only see him from the back of his head. While Martin is pacing back in, Picardo would run around the side of the set, go into a bathroom, climb into a tub, rip off his tear-away outfit so he’s just wearing underwear, lie back in the tub, and then Short and Meg Ryan would walk into the scene. He said he had to do it repeatedly, getting out of breath, and yet in the tub scene, he’s supposed to be lying still! Yet the scene works great in the movie. Equally, his second memory was meeting the young starlet, Meg Ryan, for the first time. He’s being introduced to her, everything is pleasant, and then the wardrobe woman came over, turned to the producer and said, “Hey, we got the tear-away clothes to work!” and ripped off Picardo’s clothes with one pull and then walked away, leaving him standing talking to Meg Ryan while wearing only a very skimpy pair of underwear;
- Fun on ST:VOY set: Like China Beach, he also had lots of fun on the ST:VOY set. He didn’t do pranks, as he is more verbal than physical, but there were episodes of people mooning others. For him, he recalled an early scene with Jerry Ryan where he went out of his way, consciously, to make sure he never looked at her butt. Tim Russ had a lot more fun though as the very serious Tuvok. In one early scene with the doctor, he was supposed to do a mindmeld with Paris to retrieve some memory. It was all very tense, very quiet in the scene, and just as he puts his hands on Paris’ temple, he did a James Brown squeal and said, “I feel good!” Great fun for the crew, not so good for the sound man who was straining to make sure any sound was picked up and had the gain cranked on the mic. More famous however was Tim Russ doing a scene where all the crew is suffering from nightmares. In Tuvok’s case, his dream was showing up for work naked on the bridge. In the scene that shows it, Tim is supposed to step off the TurboLift into the bridge area, and the Voyager crew notices him, and laughs. Obviously he would be wearing small boxers or something. However, before he did the first take, he visited the wardrobe department, and got a long black kneesock and stuffed it full of other socks, so that when he stepped out of the lift, he had this long appendage hanging down. The crew and cast lost it.
- Would he like to be on Dr. Who: He said he is a huge Dr. Who fan, and would love to do a cameo so both “doctors” could be together.
While Picardo wasn’t the “best guest ever”, he was indeed highly entertaining, and engaging with his stories. Next up? James Marsters.