EXCLUSIVE: It has been almost seven years since Star Trek Voyager returned home and went off the air, but just recently Tim Russ (Tuvok) is having a bit of a Trek renaissance. He directed (and appears in) the new independent mini-series Of Gods and Men. Plus he has a starring role as Tuvok in the centerpiece multimedia experience for Star Trek The Tour. Russ talked to TrekMovie.com about his latest Trek work as well as some other projects going on for the busy actor/director.
TrekMovie.com: Have you been keeping track of fan reaction after the first part of "Of Gods and Men" was released.
Tim Russ: The general consensus, say 70% or more, liked what they saw. That is given the fact that the streaming technology doesn’t have the best resolution and has some stuttering which makes it difficult to get into the story. Given even that we had a very positive reaction. So we have been very happy with that.
TrekMovie.com: What can fans expect to see from parts 2 and 3.
Tim Russ: Act 1 sets up the story and it ramps up from there. Act 3 is full of action and things are happening at a very quick pace. There is a lot of CGI in the third act. The second act is also beefy. You get a lot of powerful performances in that act, especially from Walter [Koenig] and Nichelle [Nichols]. We introduce another major villain in the third act. It gets pretty gnarly in the 2nd and 3rd acts.
TrekMovie.com: In Act 1 it appears that you chose to use different directing styles for each of the different timelines. Can you talk about why you chose to do that?
Tim Russ: It was absolutely on purpose. I wanted to keep the front part before they go into that timeline a little bit more staid and almost in a traditional style of the way Trek is shot. And then juxtapose that with a different style for the different universe that is much more dark and threatening. So I wanted to shoot and cut that a lot looser and with more of an edge. So we used a lot more hand held and it was a lot more erratic. But then we we come back to the regular universe at the end it goes back to the more traditional.
Russ on the set of Of Gods and Men
TrekMovie.com: You recently shot a short film that is part of the Star Trek Tour where you reprise your role as Tuvok, this time on the USS Titan. What was it like to get back into the role.
Tim Russ: The feeling is the same regarding the character. I haven’t done that character since Of Gods and Men which was shot over a year ago. I think the character in Of Gods and Men felt different because he is in an alternative timeline so he is more of a civilian. So essentially this character isn’t that much different than he was in Voyager except that he is in command in this one. It felt a little bit strange. You have kind of put that character behind you as time goes by. So to go back and revisit is sometimes a strange feeling from an acting standpoint.
TrekMovie.com: Looking back at Star Trek Voyager. How do you think it holds up over time?
Tim Russ: I think that Voyager is one of the more popular series they brought back. People really like TNG and they really like Voyager a lot…those two stand out. I think the nature of the storylines really holds up over time. The ones that involve difficult character decisions and involve some very interesting character plots — those stories tend to hold up. You can still get caught up in the story and it wont matter when you watch it. The only thing that wont hold up could be the special effects which could change over years. But looking at the episode I directed, "Living Witness," it is timeless. You can play that story now or a thousand years from now and that storyline is still relevant.
TrekMovie.com: So would you have done anything differently?
Tim Russ: Not in terms of the story. But if I was to redo it today I would change the way it was shot to be more progressive, more edgy style in terms of the cameras and lighting. Not unlike some of the dramas we have now. Voyager was done in the way the Executive Producer at the time [Rick Berman] liked it to be shot. If you brought him something that was shot outside the box he would make you redo it again.
TrekMovie.com: When Voyager ended did you or the other cast members think that was the end or did you expect to return to Trek in the future.
Tim Russ: I think the majority thought that something would come up. That is the nature of the beast isn’t it? Franchises never let you go once you get into it. So you will get offered with some kind of role, be it a cameo or something that is Star Trek related. And sure enough it has been twice for me, three times if you include Roddenberry On Patrol. And there was always the possibility of a cameo as your character or another character in a feature film. Which is exactly what happened with Ethan Phillips and Bob Picardo [Star Trek: First Contact].
TrekMovie.com: Speaking of feature films. From what you have heard, what do you think of the direction that Paramount and JJ Abrams are taking with the franchise?
Tim Russ: In my opinion I would have preferred to have seen a parallel timeline or a future timeline. I am not really crazy about prequels. It is like reading the back of the book before reading the book. I am not sure how much tension you can build knowing they survive. It is not as exciting as going forward or a parallel course or breaking the mold. I hope that JJ Abrams, even going back, breaks the mold at least in terms of the way it looks and is shot and produced. It should look different than what we before and I am sure it will. I would prefer something edgy and darker and ambitious in terms of production value, look and feel, style and storyline. That is one of the things we tried to do with Of Gods and Men is try and do something we haven’t seen before in Trek. I will be interested to see what they do.
TrekMovie.com: You are now appearing on the sitcom Samantha Who? which is taking a WGA strike hiatus. Are you guys coming back after the strike ends?
Tim Russ: According to the producers yes absolutely. We were picked up for the full season after the strike hit. We just won a Peoples Choice Award for Best New Comedy and Christina Applegate was nominated for a Golden Globe. So I foresee it coming back.
TrekMovie.com: Along with Samantha Who?, you have recently appeared in other comedies and light hearted shows on Nickelodeon. Do you prefer doing comedy?
Tim Russ: I do enjoy doing comedy. It is a bit more of a challenge but it can be a lot of fun. I also just finished what will be a recurring role on a show called Truth in Advertising which will be on TNT. That is more of an hour dramedy. That airs in February.
Russ and the rest of the cast of ‘Samantha Who?’
Find out more about Star Trek The Tour featuring Tim Russ as Tuvok at StarTrekTheTour.com
Watch part 1 of Of Gods and Men at StarTrekOfGodsAndMen.com
For more on Tim, including his latest musical CD "Second Thoughts" visit his official site.